Fruits come in an impressive array of shapes, sizes, and consistencies, and also display a huge diversity in biochemical/metabolite profiles, wherein lies their value as rich sources of food, nutrition, and pharmaceuticals. This is in addition to their fundamental function in supporting and dispersing the developing and mature seeds for the next generation.
Understanding developmental processes such as fruit development and ripening, particularly at the genetic level, was once largely restricted to model and crop systems for practical and commercial reasons, but with the expansion of developmental genetic and evo-devo tools/analyses we can now investigate and compare aspects of fruit development in species spanning the angiosperms. We can superimpose recent genetic discoveries onto the detailed characterization of fruit development and ripening conducted with primary considerations such as yield and harvesting efficiency in mind, as well as on the detailed description of taxonomically relevant characters.
This free review article focuses on two very morphologically distinct and evolutionary distant fruits: the capsule of opium poppy, and the grain or caryopsis of cereals. Both are of massive economic value, but because of very different constituents; alkaloids of varied pharmaceutical value derived from secondary metabolism in opium poppy capsules, and calorific energy fuel derived from primary metabolism in cereal grains. Through comparative analyses in these and other fruit types, interesting patterns of regulatory gene function diversification and conservation are beginning to emerge.