The outermost cuticle of soybean seeds: Chemical composition and function during imbibition


Shao, S., Meyer, C.J., Ma, F., Peterson, C.A., and Bernards, M.A. (2007). "The outermost cuticle of soybean seeds: chemical composition and function during imbibition.", Journal of Experimental Botany, 58(5), pp. 1071-1082. doi : 10.1093/jxb/erl268


Seeds of different cultivars of Glycine max (L.) Merr. (soybean) have strikingly different rates of water imbibition. Seeds that readily imbibe water are termed 'soft', while those that remain non-permeable, even after several days in water, are referred to as 'hard', 'stone', or 'impermeable' seeds. What prevents soybean hard seeds from taking up water? Previous work established that the initial imbibition of soft soybean seeds correlates with the presence of small cracks in the outermost cuticle that covers the seed coat, prompting a detailed analysis of soybean seed coat cutin. In this paper, it is shown that the outermost cuticle of the seed coat has an unusual chemical composition, lacking typical mid-chain-hydroxylated fatty acids but being relatively rich in other types of hydroxylated fatty acids. The cuticle of the impermeable cultivar studied contained a disproportionately high amount of hydroxylated fatty acids relative to that of the permeable ones. Moreover, a brief treatment with hot alkali released the ω-hydroxy fatty acid component of the outermost cuticle and created holes in it that caused the seeds to become permeable. This demonstrates that the outermost cuticle of the seed is the critical structure that prevents water uptake by hard seeds. © The Author [2007]. Published by Oxford University Press [on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology]. All rights reserved.

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