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Maize (Zea mays L.) endogenous seed phosphorus remobilization is not influenced by exogenous phosphorus availability during germination and early growth stages

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Background and aims

Phosphorus (P) nutrition is very important during early maize seedling growth. Remobilization of endogenous seed P and uptake of exogenous P are therefore of prime importance during this period. Our objectives were to study the effect of the availability of endogenous and exogenous P on i) remobilization of endogenous seed P, ii) the beginning of exogenous P uptake and its intensity, iii) their interaction and effect on seedling development.


Seeds with high and low reserves of endogenous seed P were cultivated at three rates of availability of exogenous P (0, 100, 1,000 μM) over a growth period of 530 cumulated degree days after sowing. Exogenous P was labeled with radioactive P (32P) to distinguish the two fluxes of P in seedlings, one due to remobilization of seed P and the other to uptake of exogenous P.


Initially, 86% of endogenous seed P was localized in the scutellum, mainly in the form of phytate, regardless of initial endogenous seed P. At 89 cumulated degree days after sowing (base temperature: 10°C), 98% of seed phytate was hydrolyzed in all treatments. In treatments with available exogenous P, significant uptake of exogenous P started at 71 cumulated degree days after sowing. Efficient uptake of exogenous P depended on its availability, but was independent of phytate hydrolysis and seedling P status. Significant loss of P from germinating seeds due to efflux was observed and was also independent of the availability of exogenous P.


Our results show that hydrolysis of seed P was not influenced by the availability of exogenous P, and conversely, that uptake of exogenous P was not influenced by endogenous P in the seed. This suggests that remobilization of endogenous seed P and uptake of exogenous P by seedling roots are controlled independently.

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LS seeds:

Seeds with low endogenous seed P

HS seeds:

Seeds with high endogenous seed P

LS seedlings:

Seedlings grown from LS seeds

HS seedlings:

Seedlings grown from HS seeds


No exogenous P


Low exogenous P availability


High exogenous P availability


Dry weight


Endogenous seed P


Exogenous P uptake


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This study was funded by a project grant from the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan and benefited from the financial support from the INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research). M. Nadeem thanks the Pakistan Higher Education Commission for funding his PhD studentship at the University of Bordeaux I, France. The authors acknowledge the technical help and the useful advice offered by Anne Gallet-Budynek and Sylvie Milin.

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Correspondence to Alain Mollier.

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Nadeem, M., Mollier, A., Morel, C. et al. Maize (Zea mays L.) endogenous seed phosphorus remobilization is not influenced by exogenous phosphorus availability during germination and early growth stages. Plant Soil 357, 13–24 (2012).

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