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Auxin response factor 6A regulates photosynthesis, sugar accumulation, and fruit development in tomato


Auxin response factors (ARFs) are involved in auxin-mediated transcriptional regulation in plants. In this study, we performed functional characterization of SlARF6A in tomato. SlARF6A is located in the nucleus and exhibits transcriptional activator activity. Overexpression of SlARF6A increased chlorophyll contents in the fruits and leaves of tomato plants, whereas downregulation of SlARF6A decreased chlorophyll contents compared with those of wild-type (WT) plants. Analysis of chloroplasts using transmission electron microscopy indicated increased sizes of chloroplasts in SlARF6A-overexpressing plants and decreased numbers of chloroplasts in SlARF6A-downregulated plants. Overexpression of SlARF6A increased the photosynthesis rate and accumulation of starch and soluble sugars, whereas knockdown of SlARF6A resulted in opposite phenotypes in tomato leaves and fruits. RNA-sequence analysis showed that regulation of SlARF6A expression altered the expression of genes involved in chlorophyll metabolism, photosynthesis and sugar metabolism. SlARF6A directly bound to the promoters of SlGLK1, CAB, and RbcS genes and positively regulated the expression of these genes. Overexpression of SlARF6A also inhibited fruit ripening and ethylene production, whereas downregulation of SlARF6A increased fruit ripening and ethylene production. SlARF6A directly bound to the SAMS1 promoter and negatively regulated SAMS1 expression. Taken together, these results expand our understanding of ARFs with regard to photosynthesis, sugar accumulation and fruit development and provide a potential target for genetic engineering to improve fruit nutrition in horticulture crops.

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