• cell cycle;
  • embryo;
  • flow cytometry;
  • endoreduplication;
  • polysomaty;
  • seed maturity


Flow cytometry (FCM) can be used to study cell cycle activity in developing, mature and germinating seeds. It provides information about a seed's physiological state and therefore can be used by seed growers for assessing optimal harvest times and presowing treatments. Because an augmented proportion of 4C nuclei usually is indicative of high mitotic activity, the 4C/2C ratio is commonly used to follow the progress of seed development and germination. However, its usefulness for polysomatic (i.e., containing cells with different DNA content) seeds is questioned. Changes in cell cycle/endoreduplication activity in developing seeds of five members of the Fabaceae were studied to determine a more suitable marker of seed developmental stages for polysomatic species based on FCM measurements. Seeds of Phaseolus vulgaris, Medicago sativa, Pisum sativum, Vicia sativa, and Vicia faba var. minor were collected 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 days after flowering (DAF), embryos were isolated and the proportion of nuclei with different DNA contents in the embryo axis and cotyledon was established. The ratios 4C/2C and (Σ>2C)/2C were calculated. Dried seeds were subjected to laboratory germination tests following international seed testing association (ISTA) rules. Additionally, the absolute nuclear DNA content was estimated in the leaves of the studied species. During seed development nuclei with DNA contents from 2C to 128C were detected; the endopolyploidy pattern depended on the species, seed organ and developmental stage. The cell cycle/endoreduplication parameters correlated negatively with genome size. The (Σ>2C)/2C ratio in the cotyledons reflected the seed developmental stage and corresponded with seed germinability. Therefore, this ratio is recommended as a marker in polysomatic seed research and production instead of the 4C/2C ratio, which does not consider the occurrence of endopolyploid cells. © 2012 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry