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Composition and physicochemical properties of outer mucilage from seeds of Arabidopsis natural accessions

Seed mucilage is a hydrogel formed of polysaccharides released from the epidermal cells of the seed coat on imbibition. This characteristic is found in many plant species, including Arabidopsis thaliana where mucilage is formed of two layers. Many roles have been proposed for seed mucilage, but to date no clear function has emerged in A. thaliana, and as the two layers have different compositions and structure it is likely that they fulfil distinct functions. Large numbers of natural A. thaliana accessions have been collected from the wild. The study of natural variation in mucilage across these accessions could provide useful information about its physiological roles.

Seed mucilage is a hydrogel formed of polysaccharides released from the epidermal cells of the seed coat on imbibition. Staining with ruthenium red facilitates the observation of the two mucilage layers released from Arabidopsis seeds. The outer layer can be easily extracted with water and data has been obtained for its polysaccharide constituents for over 300 natural Arabidopsis accessions. Image credit: H.M. North.

Poulain et al. recently published an Editor’s Choice dataset in AoBP describing six traits for polysaccharides extracted from the outer layer of mucilage for a panel of 306 natural A. thaliana accessions. Staining with ruthenium red facilitates the observation of the two mucilage layers released from Arabidopsis seeds. The outer layer can then be easily extracted with water. This data set provides a starting point for future analyses describing the genetic variation for these traits and the identification of accessions harbouring gene variants with strong effects. While the latter can be used to identify genes that contribute to the adaptive function of the traits through genetic linkage analysis using co-segregation, the data set as a whole could also provide valuable insights through association studies with other available data sets for genome sequence, phenotypes or geolocalization. The latter could highlight potential adaptations of mucilage traits to specific ecological or geographical environments.

Written by William Salter

William (Tam) Salter is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. He has a bachelor degree in Ecological Science (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in plant ecophysiology from the University of Sydney. Tam is interested in the identification and elucidation of plant traits that could be useful for ecosystem resilience and future food security under global environmental change. He also has an active interest in effective scientific communication.

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