Possible role of pectin-containing mucilage and dew in repairing embryo DNA of seeds adapted to desert conditions

Zhenying Huang, Ivan Boubriak, Daphne J. Osborne, Ming Dong, Yitzchak Gutterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


• Background and Aims: Repair of damage to DNA of seed embryos sustained during long periods of quiescence under dry desert conditions is important for subsequent germination. The possibility that repair of embryo DNA can be facilitated by small amounts of water derived from dew temporarily captured at night by pectinaceous surface pellicles was tested. These pellicles are secreted during early seed development and form mucilage when hydrated. • Methods: Seeds of Artemisia sphaerocephala and Artemisia ordosica were collected from a sandy desert. Their embryos were damaged by gamma radiation to induce a standard level of DNA damage. The treated seeds were then exposed to nocturnal dew deposition on the surface of soil in the Negev desert highlands. The pellicles were removed from some seeds and left intact on others to test the ability of mucilage to support repair of the damaged DNA when night-time humidity and temperature favoured dew formation. Repair was assessed from fragmentation patterns of extracted DNA on agarose gels. • Key Results: For A. sphaerocephala, which has thick seed pellicles, DNA repair occurred in seeds with intact pellicles after 50 min of cumulative night dew formation, but not in seeds from which the pellicles had been removed. For A. ordosica, which has thin seed pellicles, DNA repair took at least 510 min of cumulative night dewing to achieve partial recovery of DNA integrity. The mucilage has the ability to rehydrate after daytime dehydration. • Conclusions: The ability of seeds to develop a mucilaginous layer when wetted by night-time dew, and to repair their DNA under these conditions, appear to be mechanisms that help maintain seed viability under harsh desert conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-283
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • Adaptation strategy
  • Artemisia
  • DNA repair
  • Desert dew
  • Pectin
  • Pellicle
  • Seed survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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