Starch turnover in developing oilseed embryos


Author for correspondence:
Alison M. Smith
Tel: +44 1603 450622


  • Starch accumulates early during embryo development in Arabidopsis and oilseed rape, then disappears during oil accumulation. Little is known about the nature and importance of starch metabolism in oilseed embryos.
  • Histochemical and quantitative measures of starch location and content were made on developing seeds and embryos from wild-type Arabidopsis plants, and from mutants lacking enzymes of starch synthesis and degradation with established roles in leaf starch turnover. Feeding experiments with [14C]sucrose were used to measure the rate of starch synthesis in oilseed rape embryos within intact siliques.
  • The patterns of starch turnover in the developing embryo are spatially and temporally complex. Accumulation is associated with zones of cell division. Study of mutant plants reveals a major role in starch turnover for glucan, water dikinase (absent from the sex1 mutant) and isoforms of beta-amylase (absent from various bam mutants). Starch is synthesized throughout the period of its accumulation and loss in embryos within intact siliques of oilseed rape.
  • We suggest that starch turnover is functionally linked to cell division and differentiation rather than to developmental or storage functions specific to embryos. The pathways of embryo starch metabolism are similar in several respects to those in Arabidopsis leaves.