The genetic and functional analysis of flavor in commercial tomato: the FLORAL4 gene underlies a QTL for floral aroma volatiles in tomato fruit

Tikunov, Yury M.; Roohanitaziani, Raana; Meijer-Dekens, Fien; Molthoff, Jos; Paulo, Joao; Finkers, Richard; Capel, Iris; Carvajal Moreno, Fatima; Maliepaard, Chris; Nijenhuis-de Vries, Mariska; Labrie, Caroline W.; Verkerke, Wouter; Heusden, Adriaan W. van; Eeuwijk, Fred van; Visser, Richard G.F.; Bovy, Arnaud G.


Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) has become a popular model for genetic studies of fruit flavor in the last two decades. In this article we present a study of tomato fruit flavor, including an analysis of the genetic, metabolic and sensorial variation of a collection of contemporary commercial glasshouse tomato cultivars, followed by a validation of the associations found by quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of representative biparental segregating populations. This led to the identification of the major sensorial and chemical components determining fruit flavor variation and detection of the underlying QTLs. The high representation of QTL haplotypes in the breeders’ germplasm suggests that there is great potential for applying these QTLs in current breeding programs aimed at improving tomato flavor. A QTL on chromosome 4 was found to affect the levels of the phenylalanine-derived volatiles (PHEVs) 2-phenylethanol, phenylacetaldehyde and 1-nitro-2-phenylethane. Fruits of near-isogenic lines contrasting for this locus and in the composition of PHEVs significantly differed in the perception of fruity and rose-hip-like aroma. The PHEV locus was fine mapped, which allowed for the identification of FLORAL4 as a candidate gene for PHEV regulation. Using a gene-editing-based (CRISPR-CAS9) reverse-genetics approach, FLORAL4 was demonstrated to be the key factor in this QTL affecting PHEV accumulation in tomato fruit.