Peach (Prunus persica) fruits have a fast ripening process and a shelf-life of days, presenting a challenge for long-distance consuming markets. To prolong shelf-life, peach fruits are stored at low temperatures (0 to 7 °C) for at least two weeks, which can lead to the development of mealiness, a physiological disorder that reduces fruit quality and decreases consumer acceptance. Several studies have been made to understand this disorder, however, the molecular mechanisms underlying mealiness are not fully understood. Epigenetic factors, such as DNA methylation, modulate gene expression according to the genetic background and environmental conditions. In this sense, the aim of this work was to identify differentially methylated regions (DMRs) that could affect gene expression in contrasting individuals for mealiness. Peach flesh was studied at harvest time (E1 stage) and after cold storage (E3 stage) for 30 days. The distribution of DNA methylations within the eight chromosomes of P. persica showed higher methylation levels in pericentromeric regions and most differences between mealy and normal fruits were at Chr1, Chr4, and Chr8. Notably, differences in Chr4 co-localized with previous QTLs associated with mealiness. Additionally, the number of DMRs was higher in CHH cytosines of normal and mealy fruits at E3; however, most DMRs were attributed to mealy fruits from E1, increasing at E3. From RNA-Seq data, we observed that differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between normal and mealy fruits were associated with ethylene signaling, cell wall modification, lipid metabolism, oxidative stress and iron homeostasis. When integrating the annotation of DMRs and DEGs, we identified a CYP450 82A and an UDP-ARABINOSE 4 EPIMERASE 1 gene that were downregulated and hypermethylated in mealy fruits, coinciding with the co-localization of a transposable element (TE). Altogether, this study indicates that genetic differences between tolerant and susceptible individuals is predominantly affecting epigenetic regulation over gene expression, which could contribute to a metabolic alteration from earlier stages of development, resulting in mealiness at later stages. Finally, this epigenetic mark should be further studied for the development of new molecular tools in support of breeding programs.
Áreas temáticas de ASJC Scopus