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J. Blasiak, A. Kuang, C.S. Farhangi, and M.E. Musgrave

Seeds developing within a locular space inside hollow fruit experience chronic exposure to a unique gaseous environment. Using two pepper cultivars, `Triton' (sweet) and `PI 140367' (hot), we investigated how the development of seeds is affected by the gases surrounding them. The atmospheric composition of the seed environment was characterized during development by analysis of samples withdrawn from the fruit locule with a gas-tight syringe. As seed weight plateaued during development, the seed environment reached its lowest O2 concentration (19%) and highest CO2 concentration (3%). We experimentally manipulated the seed environment by passing different humidified gas mixtures through the fruit locule at a rate of 60 to 90 mL·min-1. A synthetic atmosphere containing 3% CO2, 21% O2, and 76% N2 was used to represent a standard seed environment. Seeds developing inside locules supplied with this mixture had enhanced average seed weight, characterized by lower variation than in the no-flow controls due to fewer low-weight seeds. The importance of O2 in the seed microenvironment was demonstrated by reduction in seed weight when the synthetic atmosphere contained only 15% O2 and by complete arrest of embryo development when O2 was omitted from the seed atmosphere. Removal of CO2 from the synthetic atmosphere had no effect on seed weight, however, the CO2-free treatment accelerated fruit ripening by 4 days in the hot pepper. In the sweet peppers, fruit wall starch and sucrose were reduced by the CO2-free treatment. The results demonstrate that accretionary seed growth is being limited in pepper by O2 availability and suggest that variation in seed quality is attributable to localized limitations in O2 supply.