Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Plant seeds protect their genetic material against dehydration

Date:
December 2, 2011
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Plant seeds represent a special biological system: They remain in a dormant state with a significantly reduced metabolism and are thus able to withstand harsh environmental conditions for extended periods. The water content of maturing seeds is lower than ten percent. Researchers have now discovered that the genetic material in seeds becomes more compact and the nuclei of the seed cells contract when the seeds begin to mature. The seeds probably protect their genetic material against dehydration in this way.

Cell nucleus of a plant seed in a dormant state (left) and after germination (right). The DNA in the smaller nucleus (blue) is more tightly compacted than in the larger one (green: methylated DNA).
Credit: MPI for Plant Breeding Research

Plant seeds represent a special biological system: They remain in a dormant state with a significantly reduced metabolism and are thus able to withstand harsh environmental conditions for extended periods. The water content of maturing seeds is lower than ten percent. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne have now discovered that the genetic material in seeds becomes more compact and the nuclei of the seed cells contract when the seeds begin to mature. The seeds probably protect their genetic material against dehydration in this way.

Related Articles


Plants prepare for changing environmental conditions in the best possible way by developing dormant seeds. Seeds that mature in autumn, for example, have no problem surviving the harsh conditions of winter. And when the seeds encounter more pleasant external conditions in spring, they germinate and reboot their metabolism, which has been running at a low speed. In archaeological excavations, seeds have even been found that had survived for several thousand years and were still able to germinate.

Dry seeds represent a transitional stage between embryonic and seedling stages. During developmental transitions, the genes that control the new state must be activated while the genes for the "old" stage are silenced. The genes in the cell nucleus are surrounded by proteins. This complex -- the chromatin -- can be tightly or loosely packed. The degree of compactness of the chromatin regulates the activity of the genes: the more "open" the chromatin, the better the genes can be read.

It was not known up to now whether the reduced metabolic activity or low water content of seeds was linked with changes in the chromatin. The research team working with Wim Soppe from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research has now shown in studies on the thale cress that the cell nuclei clearly contract during seed maturation and the chromatin compacts as part of this process. Both processes are reversed during germination. "The size of the nucleus is independent of the state of dormancy of Arabidopsis thaliana seeds," says Soppe. Instead, the reduction of the nucleus is an active process, the function of which is to increase resistance to dehydration. Again, the condensation of the chromatin arises independently of the changes in the nucleus.

Thanks to the discoveries of the Cologne-based researchers it may be possible to protect other organisms against dehydration, as the mechanisms that regulate the organisation of the chromatin have undergone little or no change over the course of evolution.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. van Zanten, M. A. Koini, R. Geyer, Y. Liu, V. Brambilla, D. Bartels, M. Koornneef, P. Fransz, W. J. J. Soppe. Seed maturation in Arabidopsis thaliana is characterized by nuclear size reduction and increased chromatin condensation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1117726108

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Plant seeds protect their genetic material against dehydration." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111202091009.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2011, December 2). Plant seeds protect their genetic material against dehydration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111202091009.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Plant seeds protect their genetic material against dehydration." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111202091009.htm (accessed November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) This rescued pygmy marmoset named Ninita is obsessed with her toothbrush. It's cuteness overload, and Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the amazing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 19, 2014) Two big chocolate producers are warning the popular treat could run out by 2020 because people are eating it faster than farmers can grow cocoa. Ciara Lee reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A tiny hamster and a bunny and rat enjoy a tiny Thanksgiving meal where they stuff themselves to the brim. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the cute video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A giant panda at the Toronto Zoo named Da Mao is celebrating the northeast snowfall by playing and tumbling in the snow in his outdoor enclosure. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins