Variation of seed heteromorphism in Chenopodium album and the effect of salinity stress on the descendants

Shixiang Yao, Haiyan Lan, Fuchun Zhang
Annals of Botany 2010, 105 (6): 1015-25

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Chenopodium album is well-known as a serious weed and is a salt-tolerant species inhabiting semi-arid and light-saline environments in Xinjiang, China. It produces large amounts of heteromorphic (black and brown) seeds. The primary aims of the present study were to compare the germination characteristics of heteromorphic seeds, the diversity of plant growth and seed proliferation pattern of the resulting plants, and the correlation between NaCl stress and variation of seed heteromorphism.

METHODS: The phenotypic characters of heteromorphic seeds, e.g. seed morphology, seed mass and total seed protein were determined. The effects of dry storage at room temperature on dormancy behaviour, the germination response of seeds to salinity stress, and the effect of salinity on growth and seed proliferation with plants derived from different seed types were investigated.

KEY RESULTS: Black and brown seeds differed in seed morphology, mass, total seed protein, dormancy behaviour and salinity tolerance. Brown seeds were large, non-dormant and more salt tolerant, and could germinate rapidly to a high percentage in a wider range of environments; black seeds were salt-sensitive, and a large proportion of seeds were dormant. These characteristics varied between two populations. There was little difference in growth characteristics and seed output of plants produced from the two seed morphs except when plants were subjected to high salinity stress. Plants that suffered higher salinity stress produced more brown (salt-tolerant) seeds.

CONCLUSIONS: The two seed morphs of C. album exhibited distinct diversity in germination characteristics. There was a significant difference in plant development and seed proliferation pattern from the two types of seeds only when the parent plants were treated with high salinity. In addition, seed heteromorphism of C. album varied between the two populations, and such variation may be attributed, at least in part, to the salinity.

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