Enzymically active cell wall from ripe tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) fruit pericarp release uronic acids through the action of wall-bound polygalacturonase. The potential involvement of products of wall hydrolysis in the induction of ethylene synthesis during tomato ripening was investigated by vacuum infiltrating preclimacteric (green) fruit with solutions containing pectin fragments enzymically released from cell wall from ripe fruit. Ripening initiation was accelerated in pectin-infiltrated fruit compared to control (buffer-infiltrated) fruit as measured by initiation of climacteric CO2 and ethylene production and appearance of red color. The response to infiltration was maximum at a concentration of 25 micrograms pectin per fruit; higher concentrations (up to 125 micrograms per fruit) had no additional effect. When products released from isolated cell wall from ripe pericarp were separated on Bio-Gel P-2 and specific size classes infiltrated into preclimacteric fruit, ripening-promotive activity was found only in the larger (degree of polymerization >8) fragments. Products released from pectin derived from preclimacteric pericarp upon treatment with polygalacturonase from ripe pericarp did not stimulate ripening when infiltrated into preclimacteric fruit.