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Concept: Seed


BACKGROUND: Both competitive and facilitative interactions between species play a fundamental role in shaping natural communities. A recent study showed that competitive interactions between plants can be mediated by some alternative signalling channel, extending beyond those channels studied so far (i.e. chemicals, contact and light). Here, we tested whether such alternative pathway also enables facilitative interactions between neighbouring plant species. Specifically, we examined whether the presence of a ‘good’ neighbouring plant like basil positively influenced the germination of chilli seeds when all known signals were blocked. For this purpose, we used a custom-designed experimental set-up that prevented above- and below-ground contact and blocked chemical and light-mediated signals normally exchange by plants. RESULTS: We found that seed germination was positively enhanced by the presence of a ‘good’ neighbour, even when the known signalling modalities were blocked, indicating that light, touch or chemical signals may not be indispensible for different plant species to sense each other’s presence. CONCLUSIONS: We propose that this alternative signalling modality operates as a general indicator of the presence of heterospecifics, enabling seeds to detect and identify a neighbour prior to engaging in a more finely-tuned, but potentially more costly, response.

Concepts: Embryo, Plant, Fruit, Seed, Plant morphology, Germination, Seedling, Love Thy Neighbour


Cliff sides are extreme habitats, often sheltering a rich and unique flora. One example is the dioecious herb Borderea chouardii (Dioscoreaceae), which is a Tertiary, tropical relict, occurring only on two adjacent vertical cliffs in the world. We studied its reproductive biology, which in some aspects is extreme, especially the unusual double mutualistic role of ants as both pollinators and dispersers. We made a 2-year pollination census and four years of seed-dispersal experiments, recording flower visitors and dispersal rates. Fruit and seed set, self-sowing of seeds, seedling recruitment, and fate of seedlings from seeds sowed by different agents were scored over a period of 17 years. The ants Lasius grandis and L. cinereus were the main pollinators, whereas another ant Pheidole pallidula dispersed seeds. Thus ants functioned as double mutualists. Two thirds of all new seedlings came from self-sown seeds, and 1/3 was dispersed by ants, which gathered the seeds with their oil-rich elaiosome. Gravity played a minor role to dispersal. Both ant dispersal and self-sowing resulted in the same survival rate of seedlings. A double mutualism is a risky reproductive strategy, but B. chouardii buffers that by an unusual long-term demographic stability (some individuals exceed 300 years in lifespan) and its presence in a climatically very stable habitat, inaccessible to large herbivores. Such a combination of traits and habitat properties may explain the persistence of this relict species.

Concepts: Reproduction, Plant, Symbiosis, Seed, Plant morphology, Plant reproduction, Sexual reproduction, Mutualism


This study presents a novel way of enhancing plant growth through the use of a non-petroleum based product. We report here that exposing either roots or seeds of multicellular plants to extremely low concentrations of dissolved hydrogen sulfide at any stage of life causes statistically significant increases in biomass including higher fruit yield. Individual cells in treated plants were smaller (∼13%) than those of controls. Germination success and seedling size increased in, bean, corn, wheat, and pea seeds while time to germination decreases. These findings indicated an important role of H2S as a signaling molecule that can increase the growth rate of all species yet tested. The increased crop yields reported here has the potential to effect the world’s agricultural output.

Concepts: Plant, Pea, Fruit, Seed, Legume, Plant morphology, Germination, Yield


Human-mediated dispersal is known as an important driver of long-distance dispersal for plants but underlying mechanisms have rarely been assessed. Road corridors function as routes of secondary dispersal for many plant species but the extent to which vehicles support this process remains unclear. In this paper we quantify dispersal distances and seed deposition of plant species moved over the ground by the slipstream of passing cars. We exposed marked seeds of four species on a section of road and drove a car along the road at a speed of 48 km/h. By tracking seeds we quantified movement parallel as well as lateral to the road, resulting dispersal kernels, and the effect of repeated vehicle passes. Median distances travelled by seeds along the road were about eight meters for species with wind dispersal morphologies and one meter for species without such adaptations. Airflow created by the car lifted seeds and resulted in longitudinal dispersal. Single seeds reached our maximum measuring distance of 45 m and for some species exceeded distances under primary dispersal. Mathematical models were fit to dispersal kernels. The incremental effect of passing vehicles on longitudinal dispersal decreased with increasing number of passes as seeds accumulated at road verges. We conclude that dispersal by vehicle airflow facilitates seed movement along roads and accumulation of seeds in roadside habitats. Dispersal by vehicle airflow can aid the spread of plant species and thus has wide implications for roadside ecology, invasion biology and nature conservation.

Concepts: Plant, Transport, Seed, Walking, Vehicle, Automobile, The Road, Seed dispersal


Background and AimsIntraspecific reproductive differentiation into sexual and apomictic cytotypes of differing ploidy is a common phenomenon. However, mechanisms enabling the maintenance of both reproductive modes and integrity of cytotypes in sympatry are as yet poorly understood. This study examined the association of sexual and apomictic seed formation with ploidy as well as gene flow towards sexuals within populations of purely polyploid Potentilla puberula.MethodsThe study is based on 22 populations representing various combinations of five polyploid cytotypes (tetraploid-octoploid) from East Tyrol, Austria. Embryo ploidy and the endosperm/embryo ploidy ratio obtained by a flow cytometric seed screen were used to infer reproductive modes of seed formation and to calculate the male and female genomic contributions to the embryo and endosperm. Self-incompatibility (SI) patterns were assessed and a new indirect approach was used to test for the occurrence of intercytotype matings based on the variation in the male genomic contribution to sexually derived embryos on the level of developed seed.Key ResultsTetraploids formed seeds almost exclusively via sexual reproduction, whereas penta- to octoploids were preferentially apomictic. Non-random distribution of reproductive modes within maternal plants further revealed a tendency to separate the sexual from the apomictic mode among individuals. Self-incompatibility of sexuals indicated functionality of the gametophytic SI system despite tetraploidy of the nuclear genome. We found no indication for significant cross-fertilization of tetraploids by the high polyploids.ConclusionsThe study revealed a rare example of intraspecific differentiation into sexual and apomictic cytotypes at the polyploid level. The integrity of the sexual tetraploids was maintained due to reproductive isolation from the apomictic higher polyploids. Functionality of the gametophytic SI system suggested that the tetraploids are functional diploids.

Concepts: Genetics, Reproduction, Genome, Seed, Asexual reproduction, Rosaceae, Plant reproduction, Parthenogenesis


Starch is the main storage carbohydrate in higher plants. Although several enzymes and regulators for starch biosynthesis have been characterized, a complete regulatory network for starch synthesis in cereal seeds remains elusive. Here, we report the identification and characterization of the rice Brittle1 (OsBT1) gene, which is expressed specifically in the developing endosperm. The osbt1 mutant showed a white-core endosperm and a significantly lower grain weight than the wild-type. The formation and development of compound starch granules in osbt1 was obviously defective: the amyloplast was disintegrated at early developmental stages and the starch granules were disperse and not compound in the endosperm cells in the centre region of osbt1 seeds. The total starch content and amylose content was decreased and the physicochemical properties of starch were altered. Moreover, the degree of polymerization (DP) of amylopectin in osbt1 was remarkably different from that of wild-type. Map-based cloning of OsBT1 indicated that it encodes a putatively ADP-glucose transporter. OsBT1 coded protein localizes in the amyloplast envelope membrane. Furthermore, the expression of starch synthesis related genes was also altered in the osbt1 mutant. These findings indicate that OsBT1 plays an important role in starch synthesis and the formation of compound starch granules.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Plant, Starch, Cereal, Seed, Rice, Amylose


High-density linkage maps can improve the precision of QTL localization. A high-density SNP-based linkage map containing 3207 markers covering 3072.7 cM of the Brassica napus genome was constructed in the KenC-8 × N53-2 (KNDH) population. A total of 67 and 38 QTLs for seed oil and protein content were identified with an average confidence interval of 5.26 and 4.38 cM, which could explain up to 22.24% and 27.48% of the phenotypic variation, respectively. Thirty-eight associated genomic regions from BSA overlapped with and/or narrowed the SOC-QTLs, further confirming the QTL mapping results based on the high-density linkage map. Potential candidates related to acyl-lipid and seed storage underlying SOC and SPC, respectively, were identified and analyzed, among which six were checked and showed expression differences between the two parents during different embryonic developmental periods. A large primary carbohydrate pathway based on potential candidates underlying SOC- and SPC-QTLs, and interaction networks based on potential candidates underlying SOC-QTLs, was constructed to dissect the complex mechanism based on metabolic and gene regulatory features, respectively. Accurate QTL mapping and potential candidates identified based on high-density linkage map and BSA analyses provide new insights into the complex genetic mechanism of oil and protein accumulation in the seeds of rapeseed.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Classical genetics, Quantitative trait locus, Genetic linkage, Rapeseed, Seed


Fruits are the defining feature of angiosperms, likely have contributed to angiosperm successes by protecting and dispersing seeds, and provide foods to humans and other animals, with many morphological types and important ecological and agricultural implications. Rosaceae is a family with ~3000 species and an extraordinary spectrum of distinct fruits, including fleshy peach, apple, and strawberry prized by their consumers, as well as dry achenetum and follicetum with features facilitating seed dispersal, excellent for studying fruit evolution. To address Rosaceae fruit evolution and other questions, we generated 125 new transcriptome and genomic datasets and identified hundreds of nuclear genes to reconstruct a well-resolved Rosaceae phylogeny with highly supported monophyly of all subfamilies and tribes. Molecular clock analysis revealed an estimated age of ~101.6 Mya for crown Rosaceae and divergence times of tribes and genera, providing a geological and climate context for fruit evolution. Phylogenomic analysis yielded strong evidence for numerous whole genome duplications (WGDs), supporting the hypothesis that the apple tribe had a WGD and revealing another one shared by fleshy fruit-bearing members of this tribe, with moderate support for WGDs in the peach tribe and other groups. Ancestral character reconstruction for fruit types supports independent origins of fleshy fruits from dry-fruit ancestors, including the evolution of drupes (e.g., peach) and pomes (e.g., apple) from follicetum, and drupetum (raspberry and blackberry) from achenetum. We propose that WGDs and environmental factors, including animals, contributed to the evolution of the many fruits in Rosaceae, which provide a foundation for understanding fruit evolution.

Concepts: Evolution, Genome, Species, Fruit, Seed, Peach, Rosaceae, Apple


Crypticerya zeteki (Cockerell, 1914) (Hemiptera: Coccomorpha: Monophlebidae) is recorded for the first time from Brazil and Maconellicoccus hirsutus (Green, 1908) (Hemiptera: Coccomorpha: Pseudococcidae) is recorded for the first time from the state of Maranhão, Brazil. Both species were collected from branches, leaves and fruits of various fruit trees in the municipalities of São José de Ribamar, São Luís and Paço do Lumiar, Maranhão, Brazil. Crypticerya zeteki was collected on Citrus spp. (Rutaceae), Cocos nucifera (L.) (Arecaceae), Cycas revoluta L. (Cycadaceae), Malpighia punicifolia L. (Malpighiaceae), Mangifera indica L. (Anacardiaceae), Musa paradisiaca L. (Musaceae) and Theobroma grandiflorum Schum (Malvaceae), all first records for this species. Maconellicoccus hirsutus was collected on Spondias tuberosa Arruda (Anacardiaceae) and M. punicifolia L. (Malpighiaceae), both new records for this species.

Concepts: Arecaceae, Fruit, Seed, Mangifera, Banana, Cycad, Cycas, Cycas revoluta


In animal pollinated plants, phenological shifts caused by climate change may have important ecological consequences. However, no empirical evidence exists at present on the consequences that flowering phenology shifts have on the strength of pollen limitation under experimental warming. Here, we investigated the effects of experimental warming on flowering phenology, flower density, reproductive success, and pollen limitation intensity in Caragana microphylla and evaluated whether earlier flowering phenology affected plant reproduction and the level of pollen limitation using warmed and unwarmed open top chambers in the Horqin Sandy Land of Inner Mongolia, northern China. The results of this study indicated that artificial warming markedly advanced flower phenology rather than extending the duration of the flowering. Additionally, warming was found to significantly reduce flower density which led to seed production reduction, since there were insignificant effects observed on fruit set and seed number per fruit. Experimental floral manipulations showed that warming did not affect pollen limitation. These results revealed the negative effects of advanced phenology induced by warming on flower density and reproductive output, as well as the neutral effects on reproductive success and pollen limitation intensity of long surviving plants.

Concepts: Reproduction, Ecology, Fruit, Pollination, Seed, Plant morphology, Flower, Inner Mongolia