Gibberellin-to-abscisic acid balances govern development and differentiation of the nucellar projection of barley grains

Weier D., Thiel J., Kohl S., Tarkowská D., Strnad M., Schaarschmidt S., Weschke W., Weber H., Hause B.

Keywords: Assimilate transfer, barley endosperm, gibberellin-to-abscisic acid balances, maternal–filial communication, nucellar projection, seg8 barley mutant
Abstract: In cereal grains, the maternal nucellar projection (NP) constitutes the link to the filial organs, forming a transfer path for assimilates and signals towards the endosperm. At transition to the storage phase, the NP of barley (Hordeum vulgare) undergoes dynamic and regulated differentiation forming a characteristic pattern of proliferating, elongating, and disintegrating cells. Immunolocalization revealed that abscisic acid (ABA) is abundant in early non-elongated but not in differentiated NP cells. In the maternally affected shrunken-endosperm mutant seg8, NP cells did not elongate and ABA remained abundant. The amounts of the bioactive forms of gibberellins (GAs) as well as their biosynthetic precursors were strongly and transiently increased in wild-type caryopses during the transition and early storage phases. In seg8, this increase was delayed and less pronounced together with deregulated gene expression of specific ABA and GA biosynthetic genes. We concluded that differentiation of the barley NP is driven by a distinct and specific shift from lower to higher GA:ABA ratios and that the spatial–temporal change of GA:ABA balances is required to form the differentiation gradient, which is a prerequisite for ordered transfer processes through the NP. Deregulated ABA:GA balances in seg8 impair the differentiation of the NP and potentially compromise transfer of signals and assimilates, resulting in aberrant endosperm growth. These results highlight the impact of hormonal balances on the proper release of assimilates from maternal to filial organs and provide new insights into maternal effects on endosperm differentiation and growth of barley grains.
DOI: 10.1093/jxb/eru289 IEB authors: Miroslav Strnad, Danuše Tarkowská