Promotion of testa rupture during garden cress germination involves seed compartment-specific expression and activity of pectin methylesterases

Claudia Scheler, Karin Weitbrecht, Simon Pearce, Anthony Hampstead, A Büttner-Mainik, Kieran JD Lee, Antje Voegele, Krystyna Oracz, Bas JW Dekkers, Xiaofeng Wang, Andy Wood, Leonie Bentsink, John R. King, Paul Knox, Mike Holdsworth, Kerstin Müller, Gerhard Leubner-Metzger

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Pectin methylesterase (PME) controls the methylesterification status of pectins and thereby determines the biophysical properties of plant cell walls, which are important for tissue growth and weakening processes. We demonstrate here that tissue-specific and spatio-temporal alterations in cell wall pectin methylesterification occur during the germination of Lepidium sativum. These cell wall changes are associated with characteristic expression patterns of PME genes and resultant enzyme activities in the key seed compartments CAP (micropylar endosperm) and RAD (radicle plus lower hypocotyl). Transcriptome and RT-qPCR analysis as well as PME enzyme activity measurements of separated seed compartments, including CAP and RAD, revealed distinct phases during germination. These were associated with hormonal and compartment-specific regulation of PME group 1, PME group 2, and PME inhibitor (PMEI) transcript expression and total PME activity. The regulatory patterns indicated a role for PME activity in testa rupture (TR). Consistent with a role for cell wall pectin methylesterification in TR, treatment of seeds with PME resulted in enhanced testa permeability and promoted TR. Mathematical modelling of transcript expression changes in germinating L. sativum and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds suggested that group 2 PMEs make a major contribution to the overall PME activity rather than acting as PME inhibitors. It is concluded that regulated changes in the degree of pectin methylesterification through CAP and RAD specific PME and PMEI expression play a crucial role during Brassicaceae seed germination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-215
Number of pages16
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number1
Early online date26 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • Seed Pectin Methylesterases
  • Seed Germination
  • Lepidium sativum
  • Cell wall pectins
  • Testa rupture
  • Endosperm rupture
  • Seed coat permeability
  • Transcriptome

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