Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Ripening delay of climacteric fruits by peptides


Post-harvest losses of food produced for human consumption, including product deterioration, are estimated to reach up to 50% worldwide. Hence, additional and better methods to delay ripening and prevent spoilage of fruits and vegetables are of high political, economic, and social importance. Ripening of many common fruits, such as apples and tomatoes, is regulated by the plant growth hormone ethylene.
Recently, we discovered a short, naturally derived peptide NOP-1 that interferes with cellular processes controlled by ethylene and, as a result, delays ripening when applied on a fruit surface. The goal of the RIPE project was to get insights into a molecular mechanism of NOP-1 action as well as to examine potential of a novel, NOP-1-based technology to control fruit ripening. In the course of the project, we developed organic microgels that can serve as containers for NOP-1. In addition, we discovered anchoring peptides that attach to a tomato or apple fruit surface at neutral pH-value. Furthermore, we engineered the tomato anchoring peptide in order to be able to release it from the fruit surface in slightly acidic conditions. Next, we managed to bind the anchoring peptides onto a surface of the microgel containers, which gave us an efficient pH-controllable NOP-1 delivery system. We also showed that NOP-1 exhibits moderate ripening-delaying effect on both tomatoes and apples treated after harvesting of unripe fruits. At the same time, the fruit quality was not compromised. Treatment of tomatoes and apples with NOP-1 before harvesting did not demonstrate any ripening delay. By combining experimental and computational approaches, we discovered the NOP-1 binding site on the prototypical ethylene receptor ETR1 and proposed a molecular mechanism of NOP-1 inhibitory effect. This knowledge will allow us to rationally design and test new and even more potent ripening inhibitors. Altogether, we demonstrated a high potential of the novel NOP-1-based technology to control fruit ripening.


Participating Core Groups

Prof. Dr. Georg Groth
, Institute of Biochemical Plant Physiology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Prof. Dr. Holger Gohlke, Institute for Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwaneberg / Dr. Felix Jakob, Institute of Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen
Prof. Dr. Andrij Pich, Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry, RWTH Aachen
Prof. Dr. Georg Noga / PD Dr. Mauricio Hunsche, INRES-Horticultural Sciences, University of Bonn

Prof. Dr. Georg Groth

Institute of Biochemical Plant Physiology
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Building 26.02, Room 01.23
Universitätsstraße 1
40225 Düsseldorf
Tel.: +49-211-8112822

Project duration
01.10.2015 – 31.12.2017


Kessenbrock, M, Klein, SM, Muller, L, Hunsche, M, Noga, G and Groth, G (2017). Novel Protein-Protein Inhibitor Based Approach to Control Plant Ethylene Responses: Synthetic Peptides for Ripening Control. Front Plant Sci 8: 1528.  

Meurer, RA, Kemper, S, Knopp, S, Eichert, T, Jakob, F, Goldbach, HE, Schwaneberg, U and Pich, A (2017). Biofunctional Microgel-Based Fertilizers for Controlled Foliar Delivery of Nutrients to Plants. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 56(26): 7380-7386.  

Heydenreich, FM, Miljus, T, Jaussi, R, Benoit, R, Milic, D and Veprintsev, DB (2017)High-throughput mutagenesis using a two-fragment PCR approach. Sci Rep 7(1): 6787. 

RIPE is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.