, Volume 167, Issue 1-2, pp 108-119

The fine structure of aleurone cells in the soybean seed coat

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The morphology and fine structure of aleurone cells of soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] seed coats were analyzed with transmission electron microscopy for the period of rapid seed fill up to physiological maturity. Thin sections and freeze-fracture replicas were prepared for each stage. The aleurone is a tissue lining the embryo sac and consists of a single layer of cells attached to the aerenchyma of the seed coat proper. During seed fill, aleurone cells contained numerous Golgi-derived vesicles in the basal region of the cytoplasm that were either free or attached to the plasma membrane along the lateral and basal regions of the cell wall. Correspondingly, the Golgi apparatus were well developed with individual dictyosomes having 5 to 8, highly fenestrated stacked cisternae. The degree of fenestration along the periphery of each cisterna increased from the cis to trans region. Rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) was also abundant, often consisting of up to 30, stacked swollen cisternae which occupied large regions of cytoplasm. Plasmodesmata which connected adjacent aleurone cells was not observed along the dorsal walls of aleurone cells that faced aerenchyma. At physiological maturity, dictyosome cisternae were less fenestrated and had fewer associated secretory vesicles. Stacked lamellae of RER were absent, being replaced by short tubular cisternae and small vesicles. At physiological maturity, the aleurone cells had thick walls, and contained numerous lipid bodies in apposition to the plasma membrane. The cytoplasm appeared densely stained in thin-sections and contained protein bodies and amyloplasts with large starch grains. We conclude that during the period of rapid seed fill aleurone cells produce, package, transport and secrete vesicular contents toward the embryo, that is followed at physiological maturity by the storage of lipid, protein and starch in the same cells. The embryo is the most likely destination for secretory products during the period of rapid seed fill. The fate of the stored food reserves in aleurone cells at physiological maturity may be analogous to that of aleurone tissue of grasses, being utilized during imbibition for processes important to germination.