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Ann Bot. 2004 Aug;94(2):213-28. Epub 2004 Jun 24.

Cracks in the palisade cuticle of soybean seed coats correlate with their permeability to water.

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Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave W, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.



Soybean (Glycine max) is among the many legumes that are well known for 'hardseededness'. This feature can be beneficial for long-term seed survival, but is undesirable for the food processing industry. There is substantial disagreement concerning the mechanisms and related structures that control the permeability properties of soybean seed coats. In this work, the structural component that controls water entry into the seed is identified.


Six soybean cultivars were tested for their seed coat permeabilities to water. To identify the structural feature(s) that may contribute to the determination of these permeabilities, fluorescent tracer dyes, and light and electron microscopic techniques were used.


The cultivar 'Tachanagaha' has the most permeable seed coat, 'OX 951' the least permeable seed coat, and the permeabilities of the rest ('Harovinton', 'Williams', 'Clark L 67-3469', and 'Harosoy 63') are intermediate. All seeds have surface deposits, depressions, a light line, and a cuticle about 0.2 microm thick overlaying the palisade layer. In permeable cultivars the cuticle tends to break, whereas in impermeable seeds of 'OX 951' it remains intact. In the case of permeable seed coats, the majority of the cracks are from 1 to 5 micro m wide and from 20 to 200 micro m long, and occur more frequently on the dorsal side than in other regions of the seed coat, a position that correlates with the site of initial water uptake.


The cuticle of the palisade layer is the key factor that determines the permeability property of a soybean seed coat. The cuticle of a permeable seed coat is mechanically weak and develops small cracks through which water can pass. The cuticle of an impermeable seed coat is mechanically strong and does not crack under normal circumstances.

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