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Plant J. 2006 Feb;45(3):309-19.

Functional analysis of Arabidopsis NCED6 and NCED9 genes indicates that ABA synthesized in the endosperm is involved in the induction of seed dormancy.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biologie des Semences, UMR 204 INRA-INAPG, Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin, 78026 Versailles Cedex, France.


The cleavage of 9-cis-epoxycarotenoids to xanthoxin, catalyzed by 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenases, is considered to be the key regulatory step of abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis. In Arabidopsis, genes for these enzymes form a multigene family with nine members, only five of which are thought to be involved in ABA production. In contrast to the prominent function of AtNCED3 in stress responses, the physiological and developmental role of the other 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenases (NCEDs) remain unknown. Our functional and expression analyses have revealed that AtNCED6 and AtNCED9 are required for ABA biosynthesis during seed development. Reverse genetic analysis showed that ABA levels were reduced in Atnced6 and Atnced9 mutant seeds. In addition, transgenic plants overexpressing the AtNCED6 gene overproduced ABA. In accordance with mutant phenotypes, both AtNCED6 and AtNCED9 exhibited seed-specific expression. Detailed cytological studies were carried out, either by using transcriptional fusions of the promoter with GUS and GFP reporter genes, or by in situ hybridization. Expression of AtNCED6 was observed exclusively in the endosperm during seed development, that of AtNCED9 in both embryo and endosperm at mid-development. In addition to reduced ABA levels, Atnced6 and Atnced9 mutant seeds were also resistant to paclobutrazol, a gibberellin biosynthesis inhibitor. Although seeds of single mutants were still dormant, reduced dormancy was observed in the Atnced6 Atnced9 double-mutant seeds. These demonstrate that ABA synthesized in both the endosperm and the embryo participates in the hormonal balance that controls seed dormancy and germination.

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