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J Exp Bot. 2005 Aug;56(418):2119-30. Epub 2005 Jun 20.

Changes in DNA and microtubules during loss and re-establishment of desiccation tolerance in germinating Medicago truncatula seeds.

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  • 1Laboratory of Plant Physiology, Wageningen University, Arboretumlaan 4, 6703 BD Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Desiccation tolerance (DT) in orthodox seeds is acquired during seed development and lost upon imbibition/germination, purportedly upon the resumption of DNA synthesis in the radicle cells. In the present study, flow cytometric analyses and visualization of microtubules (MTs) in radicle cells of seedlings of Medicago truncatula showed that up to a radicle length of 2 mm, there is neither DNA synthesis nor cell division, which were first detected in radicles with a length of 3 mm. However, DT started to be lost well before the resumption of DNA synthesis, when germinating seeds were dried back. By applying an osmotic treatment with polyethylene glycol (PEG) before dehydration, it was possible to re-establish DT in seedlings with a radicle up to 2 mm long. Dehydration of seedlings with a 2 mm radicle, with or without PEG treatment, caused disassembly of MTs and appearance of tubulin granules. Subsequent pre-humidification led to an almost complete disappearance of both MTs and tubulin granules. Upon rehydration, neither MTs nor tubulin granules were detected in radicle cells of untreated seedlings, while PEG-treated seedlings were able to reconstitute the microtubular cytoskeleton and continue their normal development. Dehydration of untreated seedlings also led to an apoptotic-like DNA fragmentation in radicle cells, while in PEG-treated seedlings DNA integrity was maintained. The results showed that for different cellular components, desiccation-tolerant seedlings may apply distinct strategies to survive dehydration, either by avoidance or further repair of the damages.

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