Influence of the Testa on Seed Dormancy, Germination, and Longevity in Arabidopsis
The testa of higher plant seeds protects the embryo against adverse environmental conditions. Its role is assumed mainly by controlling germination through dormancy imposition and by limiting the detrimental activity of physical and biological agents during seed storage. To analyze the function of the testa in the model plant Arabidopsis, we compared mutants affected in testa pigmentation and/or structure for dormancy, germination, and storability. The seeds of most mutants exhibited reduced dormancy. Moreover, unlike wild-type testas, mutant testas were permeable to tetrazolium salts. These altered dormancy and tetrazolium uptake properties were related to defects in the pigmentation of the endothelium and its neighboring crushed parenchymatic layers, as determined by vanillin staining and microscopic observations. Structural aberrations such as missing layers or a modified epidermal layer in specific mutants also affected dormancy levels and permeability to tetrazolium. Both structural and pigmentation mutants deteriorated faster than the wild types during natural aging at room temperature, with structural mutants being the most strongly affected.