Involvement of acetaldehyde in seed deterioration of some recalcitrant woody species through the acceleration of aerobic respiration.
The rate of acetaldehyde (Ald) evolution in the deterioration of recalcitrant woody seeds was investigated. Four plant species, Ligustrum japonicum, Quercus serrata, Quercus myrsinaefolia and Camellia japonica, were used for the experiments. Similar to orthodox seeds, all of the recalcitrant seeds used contained Ald in addition to methanol and ethanol, although the amount of Ald in Camellia, a typical oil seed, was very small. These volatiles were accumulated in a container in which Ligustrum and Q. serrata seeds were stored for a short period. Moreover, all of the seeds that had been previously exposed to Ald for only 6 d at 3 or 13 degrees C lost their vigor rapidly in proportion to the concentration of Ald. The occasional removal by decompression of Ald accumulated in the container prolonged the life span of Q. serrata seeds from 4 to 6 months. These findings suggest that a short life span of the hydrated recalcitrant seeds may involve Ald synthesis as in the orthodox seeds. However, the action mechanism of Ald in Ligustrum and Quercus seeds in which storage substances were polysaccharides seems to differ slightly from that in orthodox seeds, because their aerobic respiration was significantly stimulated by exposure to exogenously applied Ald. It was, therefore, thought that the rapid deterioration of some recalcitrant seeds in woody species may result from a decline in vigor, not only due to the denaturation of functional proteins by Ald as in the orthodox seeds but also due to the rapid consumption of direct substrates for the Ald-stimulated aerobic respiration and related co-enzymes within seeds. In contrast, in the oil-bearing Camellia seeds, Ald was slightly produced and their aerobic respiration was not enhanced by Ald, although they were very sensitive to Ald. Desiccation storage of Camellia seeds caused the deterioration of their outer part, which was accelerated by exogenously applied Ald, which suggests that in Camellia Ald acts only to denature the functional proteins as in orthodox seeds. Thus, the short longevity of these woody recalcitrant seeds is discussed in relation to the actions of Ald produced endogenously.
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