Developmental Control and Plasticity of Fruit and Seed Dimorphism in Aethionema arabicum

Teresa Lenser, Kai Graeber, Özge Selin Cevik, Nezaket Adigüzel, Ali A. Dönmez, Christopher Grosche, Marcel Kettermann, Sara Mayland-Quellhorst, Zsuzsanna Merai, Setareh Mohammadin, Thu-Phuong Nguyen, Florian Rümpler, Christina Schulze, Katja Sperber, Tina Steinbrecher, Nils Wiegand, Miroslav Strnad, Ortrun Mittelsten Scheid, Stefan Rensing, Michael Eric SchranzGünter Theißen, Klaus Mummenhoff, Gerhard Leubner-Metzger

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Understanding how plants cope with changing habitats is a timely and important topic in plant research. Phenotypic plasticity describes the capability of a genotype to produce different phenotypes when exposed to different environmental conditions. In contrast, the constant production of a set of distinct phenotypes by one genotype mediates bet-hedging, a strategy that reduces the temporal variance in fitness at the expense of a lowered arithmetic mean fitness. Both phenomena are thought to represent important adaptation strategies to unstable environments. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms of these phenomena, partly due to the lack of suitable model systems. We used phylogenetic and comparative analyses of fruit and seed anatomy, biomechanics, physiology and environmental responses to study fruit and seed heteromorphism, a typical morphological basis of a bet-hedging strategy of plants, in the annual Brassicaceae Aethionema arabicum. Our results indicate that heteromorphism evolved twice within the Aethionemeae, including once for the monophyletic annual Aethionema clade. The dimorphism of Ae. arabicum is associated with several anatomic, biomechanical, gene expression and physiological differences between the fruit and seed morphs. However, fruit ratios and numbers change in response to different environmental conditions. Therefore, the life-history strategy of Ae. arabicum appears to be a blend of bet-hedging and plasticity. Together with the available genomic resources, our results pave the way to use this species in future studies intended to unravel the molecular control of heteromorphism and plasticity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1691-1707
Number of pages17
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number3
Early online date4 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Aethionema arabicum
  • bet-hedging
  • fruit dimorphism
  • heteromorphism
  • life-history strategy
  • model species
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • seed dimorphism

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