Apple fruit are well known for their storage life, although a wide range of flesh softening occurs among cultivars. Loss of firmness is genetically coordinated by the action of several cell wall enzymes, including polygalacturonase (PG) which depolymerizes cell wall pectin. By the analysis of ‘Fuji’ (Fj) and ‘Mondial Gala’ (MG), two apple cultivars characterized by a distinctive ripening behaviour, the involvement of Md-PG1 in the fruit softening process was confirmed to be ethylene dependent by its transcript being down-regulated by 1-methylcyclopropene treatment in MG and in the low ethylene-producing cultivar Fj. Comparing the PG sequence of MG and Fj, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was discovered. Segregation of the Md-PG1SNP marker within a full-sib population, obtained by crossing Fj and MG, positioned Md-PG1 in the linkage group 10 of MG, co-located with a quantitative trait locus (QTL) identified for fruit firmness in post-harvest ripening. Fruit firmness and softening analysed in different stages, from harvest to post-storage, determined a shift of the QTL from the top of this linkage group to the bottom, where Md-ACO1, a gene involved in ethylene biosynthesis in apple, is mapped. This PG–ethylene-related gene has beeen positioned in the apple genome on chromosome 10, which contains several QTLs controlling fruit firmness and softening, and the interplay among the allelotypes of the linked loci should be considered in the design of a marker-assisted selection breeding scheme for apple texture.
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