Rootstocks frequently exert detrimental effects on the fruit quality of grafted cucumber (Cucumis sativus
L.) plants. To understand and ultimately correct this deficiency, a transcriptomic and metabolomic comparative analysis was performed among cucumber fruits from non-grafted plants (NG), and fruits from plants grafted onto different rootstocks of No.96 and No.45 (Cucurbita moschata.
Duch), known to confer a different aroma and taste. We found remarkable changes in the primary metabolites of sugars, organic acids, amino acids, and alcohols in the fruit of the grafted cucumber plants with different rootstocks, compared to the non-grafted ones, especially No.45. We identified 140, 131, and 244 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the comparisons of GNo.96 vs. NG, GNo.45 vs. NG, and GNo.45 vs. GNo.96. The identified DEGs have functions involved in many metabolic processes, such as starch and sucrose metabolism; the biosynthesis of diterpenoid, carotenoid, and zeatin compounds; and plant hormone signal transduction. Members of the HSF, AP2/ERF-ERF, HB-HD-ZIP, and MYB transcription factor families were triggered in the grafted cucumbers, especially in the cucumber grafted on No.96. Based on a correlation analysis of the relationships between the metabolites and genes, we screened 10 candidate genes likely to be involved in sugar metabolism (Fructose-6-phosphate and trehalose), linoleic acid, and amino-acid (isoleucine, proline, and valine) biosynthesis in grafted cucumbers, and then confirmed the gene expression patterns of these genes by qRT-PCR. The levels of TPS15
(Csa3G040850) were remarkably increased in cucumber fruit with No.96 rootstock compared with No.45, suggesting changes in the volatile chemical production. Together, the results of this study improve our understanding of flavor changes in grafted cucumbers, and identify the candidate genes involved in this process.
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