Maternal tissue is involved in stimulant reception by seeds of the parasitic plant Orobanche

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Abstract

Background and Aims

A fundamental element in the evolution of obligate root-parasitic angiosperms is their ability to germinate only in response to chemical stimulation by roots, to ensure contact with a nearby nourishing host. The aim of this study was to explore inheritance of the unique germination control in this group of plants.

Methods

Analysis was made of the segregation of spontaneous (non-induced) germination that appeared in hybrid progenies derived from crosses between Orobanche cernua and O. cumana, which, like all other Orobanche species, are totally dependent on chemical stimulation for the onset of germination, and show negligible spontaneous germination in their natural seed populations.

Key Results and Conclusions

F1 and F2 seeds did not germinate in the absence of chemical stimulation, but significant spontaneous germination was found in some F3 seed families. This indicates that the prevention of non-induced germination in Orobanche seeds, i.e. dependence on an external chemical stimulation for seed germination, is genetically controlled, that this genetic control is expressed in a seed tissue with maternal origin (presumably the perisperm that originates from the nucellus) and that genetic variation for this trait exists in Orobanche species. Similar segregation results were obtained in reciprocal crosses, suggesting that stimulated germination is controlled by nuclear genes.

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