Water-, oxalate-, acid- and alkali-soluble pectic substances as well as pectolytic enzymes activity and ethylene evolution were monitored in cape-gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.) fruits throughout their development and ripening. The water- and oxalate-soluble pectic substances were found to increase while those of acid- and alkali-soluble pectic substances decreased during ripening. Simultaneously with the degradation of high molecular weight pectin, there was a 5-6-fold increase in polygalacturonase activity but pectin methylesterase activity was not clearly related to fruit ripening. The increased level of polygalacturonase activity was highly correlated with ethylene evolution although ethylene evolution occurred prior to polygalacturonase synthesis in fruit tissue. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.