L. Van Meulebroek, J. Hanssens, K. Steppe
May 26, 2016
International Journal of Molecular Sciences
As the presence of health-promoting substances has become a significant aspect of tomato fruit appreciation, this study investigated nutrient solution salinity as a tool to enhance carotenoid accumulation in cherry tomato fruit (Solanum lycopersicum L. cv. Juanita). Hereby, a key objective was to uncover the underlying mechanisms of carotenoid metabolism, moving away from typical black box research strategies. To this end, a greenhouse experiment with five salinity treatments (ranging from 2.0 to 5.0 decisiemens (dS) m−1) was carried out and a metabolomic fingerprinting approach was applied to obtain valuable insights on the complicated interactions between salinity treatments, environmental conditions, and the plant’s genetic background. Hereby, several hundreds of metabolites were attributed a role in the plant’s salinity response (at the fruit level), whereby the overall impact turned out to be highly depending on the developmental stage. In addition, 46 of these metabolites embraced a dual significance as they were ascribed a prominent role in carotenoid metabolism as well. Based on the specific mediating actions of the retained metabolites, it could be determined that altered salinity had only marginal potential to enhance carotenoid accumulation in the concerned tomato fruit cultivar. This study invigorates the usefulness of metabolomics in modern agriculture, for instance in modeling tomato fruit quality. Moreover, the metabolome changes that were caused by the different salinity levels may enclose valuable information towards other salinity-related plant processes as well.