The abundant class III chitinase homolog in young developing banana fruits behaves as a transient vegetative storage protein and most probably serves as an important supply of amino acids for the synthesis of ripening-associated proteins
Analyses of the protein content and composition revealed dramatic changes in gene expression during in situ banana (Musa spp.) fruit formation/ripening. The total banana protein content rapidly increases during the first 60 to 70 d, but remains constant for the rest of fruit formation/ripening. During the phase of rapid protein accumulation, an inactive homolog of class III chitinases accounts for up to 40% (w/v) of the total protein. Concomitant with the arrest of net protein accumulation, the chitinase-related protein (CRP) progressively decreases and several novel proteins appear in the electropherograms. Hence, CRP behaves as a fruit-specific vegetative storage protein that accumulates during early fruit formation and serves as a source of amino acids for the synthesis of ripening-associated proteins. Analyses of individual proteins revealed that a thaumatin-like protein, a beta-1,3-glucanase, a class I chitinase, and a mannose-binding lectin are the most abundant ripening-associated proteins. Because during the ripening of prematurely harvested bananas, similar changes take place as in the in situ ripening bananas, CRP present in immature fruits is a sufficient source of amino acids for a quasi-normal synthesis of ripening-associated proteins. However, it is evident that the conversion of CRP in ripening-associated proteins takes place at an accelerated rate, especially when climacteric ripening is induced by ethylene. The present report also includes a discussion of the accumulation of the major banana allergens and the identification of suitable promoters for the production of vaccines in transgenic bananas.