Maternal control of seed germination vigour

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

The decision to germinate and the vigour of germination are vital traits for population fitness and crop performance. Both are highly contingent on environmental temperature: this is sensed not just by seeds themselves, but as we have been able to establish, also by the mother plant. Our work has shown that the fruit is a dynamic environmental sensing organ, integrating environmental signals detected over time scales of weeks and months for the purpose of passing timing information to progeny seeds. This signalling takes place in part using genes that also control time to flowering: however the architecture of this pathway in fruits and the target processes are profoundly different to those previously described. To take an unbiased approach to understanding this pathway we have used a classical forward screen for Arabidopsis loci that show low dormancy and high vigour under low temperature conditions that induce strongly dormant states in wild type seeds. Identifying and characterising genes mutated in three of these lines will generate an understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying the environmental control of seed vigour, and we will clone 3 of 11 mendelian loci isolated (years 3-4). Translated into crops, this work also creates the potential to improve seed vigour resilience to climate change, adding robustness to seed supply chains. We will directly exploit our knowledge for Brassica improvement by understanding flowering pathway activity in Brassica fruits and screening populations directly for traits known from Arabidopsis to underlie high and resilient seed and seedling vigour (years 4-5).
 
Description We set out to analyse the mechanism through which the maternal environment, particularly maternal temperature variation, affects seed behaviour. We used a number of different approaches to look at this in more detail. Firstly we identified new arabidopsis mutants whose seed dormancy did not respond normally to low temperature. We cloned the underlying gene for the first of these and showed that the causative gene was important for suberin synthesis in the seed coat. Suberin is a hydrophobic polymer which is important for regulating the entry of substances at the seed micropyle, a small hole in the seed coat which is formed during early seed development. We showed that in the absence of suberin more water and more oxygen enters the seed and this corresponds with better germination. Importantly, we showed that temperature affects the amount of suberin that is deposited, and the expression of genes which encode enzymes important for suberin synthesis. Secondly, we revealed new features of the signalling pathways by which temperature information is sensed at seeds. We showed that long term temperature information is stored at a gene called FLC, which is expressed primarily in the maternal tissues of the fruit and seed. When we investigated the functions of FLC target genes we found that exactly the same genes which control temperature signalling during flowering also control temperature signalling in seeds, but somehow they are wired together in alternative configurations in seeds. One of these genes is involved in day length sensing and the other in temperature sensing. We showed that both genes regulate each other, so that day length and temperature sensing are closely integrated in plants. This finding is important in understanding plant seasonal behaviour because the way in which plants respond to seasonal cues is important for their adaptation to different climate zones, and to climate change.
Exploitation Route They can be used to breed rapeseed varieties with more resilient yields and better seed quality.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description BBSRC international partnership award
Amount £24,200 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 04/2019
 
Description BBSRC strategic longer larger grant
Amount £4,300,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 12/2022
 
Description NRP tranalational fund
Amount £55,000 (GBP)
Organisation Norwich Research Park 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 04/2017
 
Title new seed germination phenotyping platform 
Description We have developed new hardware and software that automates seed germination phenotyping. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This has allowed us to increase the throughpout of seed phenotyping procedures in the lab. 
 
Description collaboration with syngenta seeds 
Organisation Syngenta International AG
Department Syngenta Seeds
Country Switzerland 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution we identified a joint research inetrest in automation of seed vigour testing. we provided software for testing for automatic calculation of germination parameters.
Collaborator Contribution They provided seeds and expertise in germination box design.
Impact computer science plant science
Start Year 2016
 
Description Exhibition at Agritech East event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We demonstrated our new seed phenotyping platform to industry professionals, famers and agricultural industry audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description agri-press article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact My work was featured in the journal agri-press hebdo, the major agriocultural magazine publication in France.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description hosted school work expreience student 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A school student ca,m and conducted work experience in the laboratory for 1 week.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description hosted visit from barenbrug grass seed comapny 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Communicated our research to representative at barenbrug
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description visit from elsoms seeds 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact hosted a visit from elsoms seeds and colmmunicated our work on seed vigour.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description visit of DSV seed company 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We hosted a delegation of rapeseed breeders from DSV and updated them on our rapeseed projects. This led to them commisioning some contract research projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description visit to enza zaden seeds bv, netherlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact gave a presentation to enza zaden seeds and sicussed future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016