During ripening fruits undergo several physiological and biochemical modifications that influence quality-related properties, such as texture, color, aroma and taste. We studied the differences in ethylene and sugar metabolism between two genetically related Japanese plum cultivars with contrasting ripening behaviors. 'Santa Rosa' (SR) behaved as a typical climacteric fruit, while the bud sport mutant 'Sweet Miriam' (SM) displayed a non-climacteric ripening pattern. SM fruit displayed a delayed ripening that lasted 120 days longer than that of the climacteric fruit. At the full-ripe stage, both cultivars reached similar final size and weight but the non-climacteric fruits were firmer than the climacteric fruits. Fully ripe non-climacteric plum fruits, showed an accumulation of sorbitol that was 2.5 times higher than that of climacteric fruits, and the increase in sorbitol were also paralleled to an increase in sucrose catabolism. These changes were highly correlated with decreased activity and expression of NAD(+)-dependent sorbitol dehydrogenase and sorbitol oxidase and increased sorbitol-6-phosphate dehydrogenase activity, suggesting an enhanced sorbitol synthesis in non-climacteric fruits.