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Plant Physiol. 2018 Jul;177(3):1218-1233. doi: 10.1104/pp.18.00416. Epub 2018 May 30.

A Maternally Deposited Endosperm Cuticle Contributes to the Physiological Defects of transparent testa Seeds.

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Department of Plant Biology and Institute for Genetics and Genomics in Geneva, University of Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.
Department of Plant Biology and Institute for Genetics and Genomics in Geneva, University of Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland


Mature dry seeds are highly resilient plant structures where the encapsulated embryo is kept protected and dormant to facilitate its ultimate dispersion. Seed viability is heavily dependent on the seed coat's capacity to shield living tissues from mechanical and oxidative stress. In Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), the seed coat, also called the testa, arises after the differentiation of maternal ovular integuments during seed development. We recently described a thick cuticle tightly embedded in the mature seed's endosperm cell wall. We show here that it is produced by the maternal inner integument 1 layer and, remarkably, transferred to the developing endosperm. Arabidopsis transparent testa (tt) mutations cause maternally derived seed coat pigmentation defects. TT gene products encode proteins involved in flavonoid metabolism and regulators of seed coat development. tt mutants have abnormally high seed coat permeability, resulting in lower seed viability and dormancy. However, the biochemical basis of this high permeability is not fully understood. We show that the cuticles of developing tt mutant integuments have profound structural defects, which are associated with enhanced cuticle permeability. Genetic analysis indicates that a functional proanthocyanidin synthesis pathway is required to limit cuticle permeability, and our results suggest that proanthocyanidins could be intrinsic components of the cuticle. Together, these results show that the formation of a maternal cuticle is an intrinsic part of the normal integumental differentiation program leading to testa formation and is essential for the seed's physiological properties.

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