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Keywords:

  • ABA-insensitive (abi) mutants;
  • ABA signaling;
  • abscisic acid (ABA);
  • Arabidopsis;
  • desiccation tolerance (DT);
  • germination;
  • re-establishment of DT;
  • seed development

Summary

  • During germination, orthodox seeds lose their desiccation tolerance (DT) and become sensitive to extreme drying. Yet, DT can be rescued, in a well-defined developmental window, by the application of a mild osmotic stress before dehydration. A role for abscisic acid (ABA) has been implicated in this stress response and in DT re-establishment. However, the path from the sensing of an osmotic cue and its signaling to DT re-establishment is still largely unknown.
  • Analyses of DT, ABA sensitivity, ABA content and gene expression were performed in desiccation-sensitive (DS) and desiccation-tolerant Arabidopsis thaliana seeds. Furthermore, loss and re-establishment of DT in germinated Arabidopsis seeds was studied in ABA-deficient and ABA-insensitive mutants.
  • We demonstrate that the developmental window in which DT can be re-established correlates strongly with the window in which ABA sensitivity is still present. Using ABA biosynthesis and signaling mutants, we show that this hormone plays a key role in DT re-establishment.
  • Surprisingly, re-establishment of DT depends on the modulation of ABA sensitivity rather than enhanced ABA content. In addition, the evaluation of several ABA-insensitive mutants, which can still produce normal desiccation-tolerant seeds, but are impaired in the re-establishment of DT, shows that the acquisition of DT during seed development is genetically different from its re-establishment during germination.