Fruit fracture biomechanics and the release of Lepidium didymum pericarp-imposed mechanical dormancy by fungi

Katja Sperber, Tina Steinbrecher, Kai Graeber, Gwydion Scherer, Simon Clausing, Nils Wiegand, James Hourston, Rainer Kurre, Gerhard Leubner-Metzger, Klaus Mummenhoff

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The biomechanical and ecophysiological properties of plant seed/fruit structures are fundamental to survival in distinct environments. Dispersal of fruits with hard pericarps (fruit coats) encasing seeds has evolved many times independently within taxa which have seed dispersal as their default strategy. The mechanisms by which the constraint of a hard pericarp determines germination timing in response to the environment are currently unknown. Here we show that the hard pericarp of Lepidium didymum controls germination solely by a biomechanical mechanism. Mechanical dormancy is conferred by preventing full phase-II water uptake of the encased non-dormant seed. The lignified endocarp has biomechanically and morphologically distinct regions which serve as predetermined breaking zones. This pericarp-imposed mechanical dormancy is released by the activity of common fungi which weaken these zones by degrading non-lignified pericarp cells. We propose that the hard pericarp with this biomechanical mechanism contributed to the global distribution of this species in distinct environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1868
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017

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