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Control of mannose/galactose ratio during galactomannan formation in developing legume seeds


Galactomannan deposition was investigated in developing endosperms of three leguminous species representative of taxonomic groups which have galactomannans with high, medium and low galactose content. These were fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.; mannose/galactose (Man/Gal) = 1.1), guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba (L.) Taub.; Man/Gal = 1.6) and Senna occidentalis (L.) Link. (Man/Gal = 3.3), respectively. Endosperms were analysed at different stages of seed development for galactomannan content and the levels, in cell-free extracts, of a mannosyltransferase and a galactosyltransferase which have been shown to catalyse galactomannan biosynthesis in vitro (M. Edwards et al., 1989, Planta 178, 41–51). There was a close correlation in each case between the levels of the biosynthetic mannosyl- and galactosyltransferases and the deposition of galactomannan. The relative in vitro activities of the mannosyl- and galactosyltransferases in fenugreek and guar were similar, and almost constant throughout the period of galactomannan deposition. In Senna the ratio mannosyltransferase/galactosyltransferase was always higher than in the other two species, and it increased substantially throughout the period of galactomannan deposition. In fenugreek and guar the galactomannans present in the endosperms of seeds at different stages of development had the Man/Gal ratios characteristic of the mature seeds. By contrast the galactomannan present in Senna endosperms at the earliest stages of deposition had a Man/Gal ratio of about 2.3. During late deposition this ratio increased rapidly, stabilising at about 3.3, the ratio characteristic of the mature seed. The levels of α-galactosidase in the developing endosperms of fenugreek and guar were low and remained fairly constant throughout the deposition of the galactomannan. In Senna, α-galactosidase activity in the endosperm was low during early galactomannan deposition, but increased subsequently, peaking during late galactomannan deposition. The developmental patterns of the α-galactosidase activity and of the increase in Man/Gal ratio of the Senna galactomannan were closely similar, indicating a cause-and-effect relationship. The endosperm α-galactosidase activity in Senna was capable, in vitro, of removing galactose from guar galactomannan without prior depolymerisation of the molecule. In fenugreek and in guar the genetic control of the Man/Gal ratio in galactomannan is not the result of a post-depositional modification, and must reside in the biosynthetic process. In Senna, the Man/Gal ratio of the primary biosynthetic galactomannan product is controlled by the biosynthetic process. Yet the final Man/Gal ratio of the galactomannan in the mature seed is, to an appreciable extent, the result of galactose removal from the primary biosynthetic product by an α-galactosidase activity which is present in the endosperm during late galactomannan deposition.

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This work was carried out with the aid of a Cooperative Research Grant (No. CRG 1) awarded by the Agricultural and Food Research Council, UK.

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Edwards, M., Scott, C., Gidley, M.J. et al. Control of mannose/galactose ratio during galactomannan formation in developing legume seeds. Planta 187, 67–74 (1992).

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Key words

  • Alpha galactosidase
  • Cell wall storage polysaccharide
  • Cyamopsis
  • Galactomannan (biosynthesis)
  • Senna
  • Trigonella