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  • Author or Editor: Yuliya A. Salanenka x
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The seedcoat permeability, uptake, and transport of model fluorescent tracers were investigated in snapbean (Phaseolus vulgaris), pepper (Capsicum annuum), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), onion (Allium cepa), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), and lettuce (Lactuca sativa) seeds. Nine fluorescent tracers and one vital stain were selected to represent a diversity of physicochemical properties (lipophilicity, electrical charge, etc.) and to simulate behavior of applied seed treatments. To study seedcoat permeability, tracers were applied to seeds as dry powders, and treated seeds were sown in moistened sand at 20 °C and removed after 18 to 24 h, a time before visible germination. Imbibed seeds were dissected and fluorescence (staining) was observed in embryos with a dissecting microscope under ultraviolet (365 nm) or visible radiation. Seedcoat permeability of species to solutes was grouped into three categories: 1) permeable—snapbeans; 2) selectively permeable—tomato, pepper, and onion; and 3) non-permeable—cucumber and lettuce. Systemic tracers that failed to permeate seedcoats during seed imbibition were taken up by roots or hypocotyls after visible germination.

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The perisperm–endosperm (PE) envelope surrounding the embryo of cucumber (Cucumis sativus) acts as a barrier to apoplastic permeability and radicle emergence. The envelope consists of a single cell layer of endosperm whose outer surface is covered by noncellular lipid and callose-rich layers. We compared the structure and histochemistry of the radicle tip and chalazal regions of the envelope, because these regions differ in permeability. Seeds were treated with coumarin 151, a nonionic, fluorescent tracer with systemic activity. Treated seeds were imbibed and on seedcoat removal, the root tip area of the membrane-covered embryo accumulated the fluorescent tracer, but the tracer could not penetrate the envelope that bordered the cotyledons and chalazal region. The cone-shaped remnant of tissue opposite the micropylar region of the envelope was identified as nucellar tissue, the “nucellar beak.” The cuticular membrane and callose layer of the PE envelope were interrupted in the nucellar beak as well as in the chalazal region. Their role in permeability is apparently substituted by the presence of thick-walled suberized cells in the beak and chalaza. A canal was observed in the center of the nucellar beak that likely provided a conduit for the tracer to diffuse from the environment to the embryo. This canal was the remnant of pollen tube entry through the nucellus and was plugged with several cells, presumably residue of the suspensor. These cells degenerated just before cucumber seed germination. This remnant of the pollen tube canal presumably offers less mechanical resistance in the nucellar beak that might help facilitate radicle protrusion during germination. Cells of the outermost and basal regions of the nucellar beak as well as the walls of endosperm cells contained pectic material. Significant pectin methylesterase activity was found in the lateral and cap regions of the PE envelope long before seed germination. Lack of callose in the envelope at the radicle tip suggests that callose does not act as a barrier to radicle emergence during cucumber seed germination.

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