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Keywords:

  • Ascorbate peroxidase;
  • endosperm;
  • maturation;
  • programmed cell death;
  • redox regulation

Abstract

Kernel development and maturation involve several well-characterised events, such as changes in ascorbate (ASC) metabolism, protein synthesis and storage, programmed cell death (PCD) of starchy endosperm and tissue dehydration. Despite many studies focusing on these events, whether and how they are metabolically related to each other, remains to be elucidated. In the present investigation, the changes in ASC-related metabolism, PCD occurrence, kernel filling and dehydration have been analysed during kernel maturation, over a 3-year period in plants grown under normal conditions and in plants displaying modified ASC synthesis. The obtained results suggest that ASC plays a pivotal role in the network of events characterising kernel maturation. During this process, a decrease in ASC content occurs. When ASC biosynthesis is improved in the kernel, by feeding the plants with its immediate precursor, L-galactone-γ-lactone (GL), the decrease in ASC, observed during kernel maturation, is delayed. As a consequence, ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activity is also enhanced. Moreover, a delay in the ASC decrease permits a delay in PCD occurring in kernel storage tissues and in kernel dehydration. Interestingly, the data emerging from the present investigation suggest that the delay in the decrease in ASC content and APX activity also improves kernel filling. The relevance of the ascorbate-dependent redox regulation for kernel productivity is discussed.