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Plant J. 2002 Apr;30(1):1-10.

Early stages of seed development in Brassica napus: a seed coat-specific cysteine proteinase associated with programmed cell death of the inner integument.

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Plant Biotechnology Institute, National Research Council of Canada, 110 Gymnasium Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada S7N 0W9.

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  • Plant J. 2002 Aug;31(3):385-6.


A maternal plant exquisitely promotes the success of its offspring by orchestrating embryo development and endowing protection even after the embryos mature. It uses ovule integuments for physical and physiological contact with the developing embryo and for subsequently equipping the seed with a seed coat (testa). The testa is developmentally and metabolically dynamic, but its molecular biology is not well understood. We show here that the inner integument in Brassica napus undergoes organized development and then programmed cell death (PCD), as evident from vacuolation, starch mobilization, DNA fragmentation and eventual compression. We have identified a cysteine proteinase gene (BnCysP1) that is expressed only in the inner integument as it undergoes PCD, well before the embryo begins storage protein synthesis. Two paralogous Cys proteinases have been recruited in rapeseed for the PCD of testa and for leaf senescence, and these differ 25% in their primary structure and post-translational modifications. Despite Arabidopsis being closely related to rapeseed, and an indication of developmental compression of its inner integument, the Arabidopsis genome is suggestive of only one Cys proteinase that shows approximately 72% identity to BnCysP1. It is, however, leaf senescence-associated, and the other Cys proteinases are <52% identical. BnCysP1 also differs from ricinosome-deployed PCD Cys endopeptidases in lacking the hallmark KDEL tail and being glycosylated. BnCysP1, one of the very few plant genes known to function only in the seed coat, will be useful in dissecting post-fertilization development of this important organ in rapeseed.

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