Fruit set is the earliest phase of fruit growth and represents the onset of ovary growth after successful fertilization. In parthenocarpy, fruit formation is less affected by environmental factors because it occurs in the absence of pollination and fertilization, making parthenocarpy a highly desired agronomic trait. Elucidating the genetic program controlling parthenocarpy, and more generally fruit set, may have important implications in agriculture, considering the need for crops to be adaptable to climate changes. Several phytohormones play an important role in the transition from flower to fruit. Further complexity emerges from functional analysis of floral homeotic genes. Some homeotic MADS-box genes are implicated in fruit growth and development, displaying an expression pattern commonly observed for ovary growth repressors. Here, we provide an overview of recent discoveries on the molecular regulatory gene network underlying fruit set in tomato, the model organism for fleshy fruit development due to the many genetic and genomic resources available. We describe how the genetic modification of components of this network can cause parthenocarpy, discussing the contribution of hormonal signals and MADS-box transcription factors.
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