Carbohydrate metabolism in germinating caryopses of Oryza sativa L. exposed to prolonged anoxia
Anoxia tolerance can be evaluated not only in terms of growth or survival of plant organs during oxygen deprivation, but also in relation to carbohydrate utilization in the context of a well-modulated fermentative metabolism. Rice (Oryza spp.) is unique among cereals, in that it has the distinctive ability to germinate under complete anaerobiosis by using the starchy reserves in its seeds to fuel the anaerobic metabolism. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the ability of germinating rice seedlings to survive a long-term oxygen deficiency [40 days after sowing (DAS)] and the effects on sugar metabolism, focusing on starch degradation as well as soluble sugars transport and storage under anoxia. No significant decline in vitality occurred until 30 DAS though no recovery was detected following longer anoxic treatments. Growth arrest was observed following anoxic treatments longer that 20 DAS, in concomitance with considerably lower ethanol production. Amylolytic activity in embryos and endosperms had similar responses to anoxia, reaching maximum content 30 days after the onset of stress, following which the levels declined for the remainder of the experiment. Under anoxia, average amylolytic activity was twofold higher in embryos than endosperms. Efficient starch degradation was observed in rice under anoxia at the onset of the treatment but it decreased over time and did not lead to a complete depletion. Our analysis of α-amylase activity did not support the hypothesis that starch degradation plays a critical role in explaining differences in vitality and coleoptile growth under prolonged oxygen deprivation.