, Volume 206, Issue 4, pp 585-597

Three-dimensional analysis of the senescence program in rice (Oryza sativa L.) coleoptiles

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The cytological sequence of senescence-related changes in coleoptiles of rice (Oryza sativa L. cv. Nippon-bare) was studied using fluorescence and electron microscopy. The coleoptiles reach full size 3 d after sowing, then rapidly senesce and wither completely by day 7. The interveinal region in cross-sections taken 1 mm from the tip of the coleoptile was selected for this analysis. Fluorescence microscopy using samples embedded in Technovit 7100 resin, electron microscopy and immunoelectron microscopy using DNA-specific antibodies were used to elucidate the sequence of senescence-related events. These occur in the following order: (i) degradation of the chloroplast DNA (cpDNA); (ii) condensation of the nucleus in conjunction with a decrease in the size of the dense-chromatin region, shrinkage of the chloroplast, degradation of ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, dilation of the thylakoid membranes, increase in size and number of osmiophilic globules, condensation of the cytoplasm; (iii) disorganization of the nucleus, degeneration of the tonoplast; (iv) complete loss of the cytoplasmic components, distortion of the cell wall, invasion of microorganisms into the intercellular spaces and ultimately into the cell itself. The mitochondria maintain their ultrastructural integrity and a constant level of mitochondrial DNA throughout senescence. In young mesophyll cells, invagination of the tonoplast into the vacuole frequently occurs. This occasionally includes cytoplasmic material, which is digested in the vacuole as senescence proceeds. Immunoelectron microscopy suggests that cpDNA degradation involves rough digestion first, rather than rapid, direct decomposition of the DNA into nucleotides. The fragmented cpDNA is then dispersed throughout the chloroplast and cytoplasm.

Received: 9 April 1998 / Accepted: 11 June 1998