Transcriptome atlas of the Arabidopsis funiculus – a study of maternal seed subregions

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The funiculus anchors the structurally complex seed to the maternal plant, and is the only direct route of transport for nutrients and maternal signals to the seed. While our understanding of seed development is becoming clearer, current understanding of the genetics and cellular mechanisms that contribute to funiculus development is limited. Using laser microdissection combined with global RNA-profiling experiments we compared the genetic profiles of all maternal and zygotic regions and subregions during seed development. We found that the funiculus is a dynamic region of the seed that is enriched for mRNAs associated with hormone metabolism, molecular transport, and metabolic activities corresponding to biological processes that have yet to be described in this maternal seed structure. We complemented our genetic data with a complete histological analysis of the funiculus from the earliest stages of development through to seed maturation at the light and electron microscopy levels. The anatomy revealed signs of photosynthesis, the endomembrane system, cellular respiration, and transport within the funiculus, all of which supported data from the transcriptional analysis. Finally, we studied the transcriptional programming of the funiculus compared to other seed subregions throughout seed development. Using newly designedin silicoalgorithms, we identified a number of transcriptional networks hypothesized to be responsible for biological processes like auxin response and glucosinolate biosynthesis found specifically within the funiculus. Taken together, patterns of gene activity and histological observations reveal putative functions of the understudied funiculus region and identify predictive transcriptional circuits underlying these biological processes in space and time.

Significance Statement

The Arabidopsis funiculus is an integral and dynamic region of the seed. Dominant patterns of gene activity reveal similarities and differences in biological processes between the funiculus and all other seed regions.

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