It is commonly assumed that the dead, hardened floral bracts of the dispersal unit of grasses have been evolved to protect seeds from predation and/or assist in fruit/caryopsis dispersal. While these structures have important agronomical and economical implications, their adaptive value has not been fully explored. We investigated the hypothesis that the maternally derived hardened floral bracts have been evolved not just as a means for caryopsis protection and dispersal, but also as storage for substances that might affect seed germination and seedling vigor. Dead glumes as well as lemmas and paleas of wild emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum var dicoccoides) were found to store and release upon hydration active hydrolases including nucleases and chitinases. High nuclease activity was released upon hydration from glumes derived from wild strains of wheat including Triticum urartu and wild emmer wheat, while very low nuclease activity was detected in glumes derived from domesticated, free-threshing wheat cultivars (e.g., durum wheat). Germination from the intact dispersal unit of wild emmer wheat was delayed, but post germination growth was better than those of separated caryopses. Most notable was a significant increase in lateral root production on seedlings germinated from the intact dispersal unit. Proteome analysis of wild emmer wheat glumes revealed many proteins stored and released upon hydration including S1-type nucleases, peptidases, antifungal hydrolases such as chitinases and β-1,3-glucanase as well as pectin acetylesterase, a protein involved in cell wall degradation and remodeling. Also, reactive oxygen species (ROS)-detoxifying enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and ascorbate peroxidase were overrepresented in dead glumes of wild emmer wheat. Thus our study highlighted previously unknown features of the dispersal unit in wild wheat in which the dead, hardened floral bracts enclosing the caryopsis store active hydrolases and nutritional elements and probably growth promoting substances that facilitate seed longevity and germination and increase seedling vigor.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)