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Ethylene: The Ripening Hormone

Ethylene is a colourless gaseous hydrocarbon C2H4 that occurs naturally in plants and acts as a plant hormone in a variety of physiological roles. Despite being a gas, it does not generally move freely through the stem of air spaces in the plant because it tends to escape more easily from the plant surface. It is produced in response to stresses such as water shortage, and acts as an effector for auxins (auxins stimulate tissues to produce ethylene), which diffuses rapidly to trigger responses in surrounding cells. It can also occur as a result of combustion and other processes. It is best known is for the stimulation of fruit ripening. Apples and pears are examples of fruit that produce ethylene with ripening. Even though ethylene is naturally produced by fruits at later stages of ripening, fruits may be treated with ethylene gas if they were picked and shipped green. Ethylene is thought of as the aging hormone in plants since it is responsible for the changes in texture, softening, color, and other processes involved in ripening. In addition to causing fruit to ripen, it can cause plants to die. It can be produced when plants are injured, either mechanically or by disease. Ethylene will cause a wide range of effects in plants, depending on the age of the plant and how sensitive the plant is to ethylene. Ethylene is known chiefly for its effects on fruit ripening and the accompanying rise in the rate of respiration (the climacteric) which occurs in some plants. The climacteric is a stage of fruit ripening associated with ethylene production and cell respiration rise. Apples, bananas, melons, apricots and tomatoes are climacteric fruit. Citrus, grapes, strawberries are non-climacteric (they ripen without ethylene and respiration bursts). However, there are non-climacteric melons and apricots, and grapes and strawberries harbour several ethylene receptors which are active. Climacteric is the final physiological process that marks the end of fruit maturation and the beginning of fruit senescence (the changes that occur in an organism between maturity and death (ageing)). Its defining point is the sudden rise in respiration of the fruit and normally takes place without any external influences. After the climacteric period, respiration rates (noted by carbon dioxide production) return to or below the point before the event. The climacteric event also leads to other changes in the fruit including pigment changes and sugar release. For those fruits

degreening in citrus. with fruits having the best taste and texture for consumption.g. The commercial compound „ethephon‟ breaks down to release ethylene in plants and is applied to rubber trees to stimulate the flow of latex. COMMERCIAL USES OF ETHYLENE. Advantages  Ethylene induces flowering in pineapple and stimulates ripening of tomatoes and citrus fruits. Fruits can often be prevented from ripening by storage in an atmosphere lacking oxygen. “gassing” to ripen bananas. After the event fruits are more susceptible to fungal invasion and begin to degrade with cell death. Studies have shown varied and contradictory effects of ethylene on vegetative growth.g.) to promote stem elongation. etc Also stimulates respiration and hastens senescence in non climacteric crops e. . Disadvantages      Commodities producing little or no ethylene may respond adversely to exposure Accelerated ripening and softening of fruit during storage Hastens senescence (yellowing of broccoli or cucumbers) Induction of stress metabolites(formation of a bitter tasting chemical in carrots and promotes phenolic metabolism related to lignifications and oxidative browning) This compound suppresses flowering in pineapples.raised as food the climacteric event marks the peak of edible ripeness. In rice it acts with gibberellins (plant hormones occurring naturally in plants and fungi and promote the elongation of stems. Has anaesthetic properties Seed germination. tomatoes. Ripening can subsequently be regulated by the application of ethylene with oxygen.      Key hormone coordinating physical and biochemical changes associated with ripening of climacteric fruits e. bud opening and root initiation may also be promoted by ethylene.

and manufacturing plants of some kinds. flowers. trade name EthylBloc) blocks ethylene by binding to its receptor. so there is not an ethylene response. smoke (including cigarettes). and ripening fruit. Ethylene initiates the reaction in which the starch is converted into sugar. bananas. the starch in the fleshy part of the fruit is converted to sugar.    In peas. Other sources of ethylene include ripening fruit. natural gas leaks. There are three main ways to produce ethylene: 1) gas from a cylinder. It is released by the growing tips of roots. Silver thiosulfate (STS) is used on flowers. Ethylene is produced and released by rapidly-growing plant tissues. pears. exhaust from internal combustion engines/heaters. Aminoethoxyvinyl-glycine (AVG. It is applied postharvest. welding. and a few other fruits postharvest. damaged tissue. It is applied preharvest. unfertilized flower or fruit) and epinasty (bending of stems). The fruit (plant) may still produce some ethylene. When fruit ripens. 2) catalytic generator. and 3) ethephon. trade name ReTain) blocks ethylene synthesis. The hormone has multiple effects on plants. so they will eat it and disperse the seeds. . The sweeter fruit is more attractive to animals. The ethylene blocker 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP. rotting vegetation. The fruit (plant) will not produce much ethylene. (lignifications) of asparagus Stimulated sprouting of potatoes Abscission of leaves and flowers (organized shedding or part of the plant usually a leaf. it inhibits root and shoot elongation. Reduced storage life and quality of cut flowers Ethylene gas is used commercially to ripen tomatoes. One is fruit ripening. but there is no response to the ethylene. There are several anti-ethylene chemicals.