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Arabidopsis thaliana Seed Proteome

Introduction | Adress


Arabidopsis thaliana, a small, annual flowering, dicotyledonous plant, was discovered by Johannes Thal (hence, thaliana) in the Harz mountains in the sixteenth century. However, it was only in 1943 that Freidrich Laibach reported for the first time the potential of this plant as a model organism for genetic studies (Sommerville and Koornneef, 2002). He was particularly interested in natural variation and the effects of light quality and quantity on flowering time and seed dormancy. One of the features of Arabidopsis that he found attractive was the large variation in physiological traits among accessions, which he started to collect systematically in 1937. In 1943, he outlined the suitability of Arabidopsis as a model for genetic and developmental biological research, citing the following points: Arabidopsis produces large numbers of progeny and develops rapidly, is easy to cultivate in limited space, exhibits abundant natural variation, produces fertile hybrids and has a relatively low chromosome number (Laibach, 1943).

Arabidopsis is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes important crops such as rape, cabbage, broccoli, cress, mustards, and radish. It has no agronomic significance, but offers important advantages for basic research in genetics and molecular biology. It has a rapid life cycle (about 8 weeks from germination to mature seed) and one of the smallest genomes (157 Mb) among plant species (Bennett et al., 2003). Its genome had been almost completely sequenced in the year 2000 (SequenceViewer, A.G.I.), which permitted the construction of a reference database for plant genomics. Furthermore, because of the syntenic relationships between plant genomes, the information gained with Arabidopsis can be of paramount importance for the characterization of those genes that govern agronomic traits in crops. Most importantly, Arabidopsis can be very easily and efficiently transformed by simply spraying flowers with bacteria (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) that contain a gene of interest in a T-DNA of a bacterial plasmid (Bechtold et al., 1993). In particular, this allowed the creation of large collections of insertion mutants based upon random integration of T-DNA inserts into the plant nuclear genome. Large collections of genetic resources including characterized mutants, transgenic lines, and a diversity of natural accessions are also available in databases (see The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR):; Stock Centers), and provide facilities to study most aspects of plant growth, development and seed quality traits (North et al., 2010).

Seed development consists of a conversion of the integument of the ovule into a resistant seed coat, the development of the endosperm and the differentiation of the embryo. All these events take place within the original ovary. At later stages of development when the embryo has attained its full size, the seed undergoes a maturation stage during which food reserves accumulate and dormancy and desiccation tolerance develop (Le et al., 2010; Raz et al., 2001; van Zanten et al., 2011).

Seed dormancy is an innate seed property that defines the environmental conditions in which the seed is able to germinate (Finch-Savage and Leubner-Metzger, 2006). In nature, dormancy mechanisms ensure that seeds will germinate at the proper time that optimises further seedling growth. Seed dormancy is determined by complex molecular mechanisms (Graeber et al., 2012) Modern crops have been bred to exhibit reduced dormancy so that seeds can germinate immediately after sowing.

Maturation drying is the normal terminal event for a vast majority of seeds from plants living in temperate climates, after which they pass into a metabolically quiescent state. Remarkably, seeds may remain in this state for many years, from decades to millennia, and still retain their viability (Hoekstra et al., 2001). Upon hydration under suitable conditions, the non-dormant seed reactivates its metabolism and commences germination, giving rise to a new plant (Bewley and Black, 1994; Bewley, 1997). Seed germination can be divided into three phases: imbibition, increased metabolic activity, and initiation of growth. These phases loosely parallel the triphasic water uptake of dry mature seeds. Morphologically, initiation of growth corresponds to radicle emergence; subsequent growth is generally defined as seedling growth. By definition, germination sensu stricto incorporates those events that start with the uptake of water by the quiescent dry seed and terminate with the protrusion of the radicle and the elongation of the embryonic axis (Bewley, 1997).

For more information on seed biology see: The Seed Biology Place (Website Gerhard Leubner Lab - University Freiburg, Germany)

Besides affording the appropriate physico-chemical conditions for reducing metabolic activity, the massive water loss that occurs during late maturation is surmised to play a role in the switch in cellular activities from an exclusively developmental program to an exclusively germination/growth-oriented program (Kermode, 1990, 1995). Indeed, during seed development, metabolism is largely anabolic, being characterized by the synthesis and deposition of reserves. In contrast, during germination and initial plant growth, mobilization of the stored reserves occurs so as to provide an energy source for the growing seedling (Bewley and Black, 1994; Job et al., 1997; Eastmond and Graham, 2001; Gallardo et al., 2001). Despite numerous studies, the nature of the mechanisms involved in fine regulation of metabolic activity during maturation-drying and germination is still unclear. mRNA profiling expression studies during seed development (Fei et al., 2007 ; Girke et al., 2000), seed dormancy (Cadman et al., 2006) and seed germination (Nakabayashi et al., 2005 ; Ogawa et al., 2003 ; Potokina et al., 2002 ; Seo et al, 2006) have recently been reported.

We are interested in determining the biochemical and genetic mechanisms that control seed dormancy, seed longevity, and that regulate the transition from quiescence to highly active metabolism during germination and seedling establishment. To this end, we are developing a proteome analysis of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Chibani et al, 2006 ; Gallardo et al., 2001, 2002a,b ; Job et al., 2005 ; Rajjou et al., 2004, 2006a,b). This global proteomics approach would allow characterization of the accumulation pattern of key metabolic enzymes in dormant seeds, after-ripened non-dormant seeds, and germinating seeds. We are also interested in metabolic changes that occur during seed storage and seed aging.

The data presented in this website are from the whole of our proteomic studies (Chibani et al, 2006 ; Gallardo et al., 2001, 2002a,b ; Job et al., 2005 ; Rajjou et al., 2004, 2006a,b). Newly identified proteins are progressively being added.

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Institut Jean Pierre Bourgin
(IJPB, UMR 1318 INRA/AgroParisTech)
Centre INRA de Versailles
Route de St-Cyr
78026 Versailles cedex - FRANCE

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