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Starch And The Control Of Kernel Number In Maize At Low Water Potentials.

C. Zinselmeier, B. Jeong, John S. Boyer
Published 1999 · Medicine, Biology

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After reproduction is initiated in plants, subsequent reproductive development is sometimes interrupted, which decreases the final number of seeds and fruits. We subjected maize (Zea mays L.) to low water potentials (psi(w)) that frequently cause this kind of failure. We observed metabolite pools and enzyme activities in the developing ovaries while we manipulated the sugar stream by feeding sucrose (Suc) to the stems. Low psi(w) imposed for 5 d around pollination allowed embryos to form, but abortion occurred and kernel number decreased markedly. The ovary contained starch that nearly disappeared during this abortion. Analyses showed that all of the intermediates in starch synthesis were depleted. However, when labeled Suc was fed to the stems, label arrived at the ovaries. Solute accumulated and caused osmotic adjustment. Suc accumulated, but other intermediates did not, showing that a partial block in starch synthesis occurred at the first step in Suc utilization. This step was mediated by invertase, which had low activity. Because of the block, Suc feeding only partially prevented starch disappearance and abortion. These results indicate that young embryos abort when the sugar stream is interrupted sufficiently to deplete starch during early ovary development, and this abortion results in a loss of mature seeds and fruits. At low psi(w), maintaining the sugar stream partially prevented the abortion, but invertase regulated the synthesis of ovary starch and partially prevented full recovery.
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