Germination sensu stricto in Arabidopsis involves seed-coat and endosperm rupture by the emerging seedling root. Subsequently, the cotyledons emerge rapidly from the extra-embryonic tissues of the seed, allowing autotrophic seedling establishment [1, 2]. Seedling survival depends upon the presence of an intact seedling cuticle that prevents dehydration, which has hitherto been assumed to form the interface between the newly germinated seedling and its environment [3-5]. Here, we show that in Arabidopsis, this is not the case. The primary interface between the emerging seedling and its environment is formed by an extra-cuticular endosperm-derived glycoprotein-rich structure called the sheath, which is maintained as a continuous layer at seedling surfaces during germination and becomes fragmented as cotyledons expand. Mutants lacking an endosperm-specific cysteine-rich peptide (KERBEROS [KRS]) show a complete loss of sheath production . Although krs mutants have no defects in germination sensu stricto, they show delayed cotyledon emergence, a defect not observed in seedlings with defects in cuticle biosynthesis. Biophysical analyses reveal that the surfaces of wild-type cotyledons show minimal adhesion to silica beads in an aqueous environment at cotyledon emergence but that adhesion increases as cotyledons expand. In contrast, krs mutant cotyledons show enhanced adhesion at germination. Mutants with defects in cuticle biosynthesis, but no sheath defects, show a similar adhesion profile to wild-type seedlings at germination. We propose that the sheath reduces the adhesiveness of the cotyledon surface under the humid conditions necessary for seed germination and thus promotes seed-coat shedding and rapid seedling establishment.
Source: . Doll NM, Bovio S, Gaiti A, Marsollier AC, Chamot S, Moussu S, Widiez T, Ingram G. Current Biology, March 9, 2020.