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Yuting Zou, Yanan Wang, Mingwei Zhu, Shuxian Li and Qiuyue Ma

Paeonia ostii is a woody oil crop with potential value as an edible oil. With the aim of acquiring systematic knowledge of the development of P. ostii seeds, the oil content, biomass, and water content of the seeds were determined. Changes in the distribution of hydrogen protons in P. ostii seeds during follicle development were traced using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The formation of oil bodies in the endosperm and embryo was observed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Dynamic changes in oleic acid, linoleic acid, and α-linolenic acid contents were assessed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The magnetic resonance images showed that, during early follicle development [45–85 days after flowering (DAF)], a greater quantity of liquid mucus was present within the seeds, and seeds in the same follicle developed at different rates. At 95 to 115 DAF, proton density was distributed evenly in all areas of the seed. A small dark area appeared in the center of the seed, and mucus in the follicles and water in the pericarp disappeared gradually. TEM observations showed that at 45 DAF, a few oil bodies were scattered at the cell periphery in the endosperm, and oil bodies were more numerous in the embryo. With the progression of seed development, the number and size of oil bodies in the embryo and endosperm continued to increase. The fresh and dry mass of P. ostii seeds increased from 45 to 105 DAF, then decreased after 105 DAF. The moisture content decreased, whereas the oil content increased and attained 33.1% at seed maturity. The three predominant unsaturated fatty acids accumulated simultaneously and showed stages of initial accumulation (45–65 DAF) and rapid accumulation (65–105 DAF). The results suggest that 65 to 105 DAF is a critical period for unsaturated fatty acid accumulation in P. ostii seeds.