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Plant Physiol. 1996 Jun;111(2):403-412.

Characterization of Membrane Properties in Desiccation-Tolerant and -Intolerant Carrot Somatic Embryos.

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  • 1Departments of Plant Physiology (F.A.A.T., R.N.M.H., W.F.W., F.A.H.) and Plant Cytology and Morphology (A.Y.d.B., A.C.v.A.), Wageningen Agricultural University, Arboretumlaan 4, 6703 BD Wageningen, The Netherlands.


In previous studies, we have shown that carrot (Daucus carota L.) somatic embryos acquire complete desiccation tolerance when they are treated with abscisic acid during culture and subsequently dried slowly. With this manipulable system at hand, we have assessed damage associated with desiccation intolerance. Fast drying caused loss of viability, and all K+ and carbohydrates leached from the somatic embryos within 5 min of imbibition. The phospholipid content decreased by about 20%, and the free fatty acid content increased, which was not observed after slow drying. However, the extent of acyl chain unsaturation was unaltered, irrespective of the drying rate. These results indicate that, during rapid drying, irreversible changes occur in the membranes that are associated with extensive leakage and loss of germinability. The status of membranes after 2 h of imbibition was analyzed in a freeze-fracture study and by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Rapidly dried somatic embryos had clusters of intramembraneous particles in their plasma membranes, and the transition temperature of isolated membranes was above room temperature. Membrane proteins were irreversibly aggregated in an extended [beta]-sheet conformation and had a reduced proportion of [alpha]-helical structures. In contrast, the slowly dried somatic embryos had irregularly distributed, but non-clustered, intramembraneous particles, the transition temperature was below room temperature, and the membrane proteins were not aggregated in a [beta]-sheet conformation. We suggest that desiccation sensitivity of rapidly dried carrot somatic embryos is indirectly caused by an irreversible phase separation in the membranes due to de-esterification of phospholipids and accumulation of free fatty acids.

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