Indexed on: 13 Jun '12Published on: 13 Jun '12Published in: American journal of botany
Despite their highly reduced morphology, Hydatellaceae bear the unmistakable embryological signature of Nymphaeales, including a starch-rich maternal perisperm and a minute biparental endosperm and embryo. The co-occurrence of perisperm and endosperm in Nymphaeales and other lineages of flowering plants, and their respective functions during the course of seed development and embryo germination, remain enigmatic.Development of the embryo, endosperm, and perisperm was examined histologically from fertilization through germination in flowers and fruits of Trithuria submersa.The embryo of T. submersa initiates two cotyledons prior to seed maturity/dormancy, and their tips remain in contact with the endosperm throughout germination. The endosperm persists as a single layer of cells and serves as the interface between the embryo and the perisperm. The perisperm contains carbohydrates and proteins, and functions as the main storage tissue. The endosperm accumulates proteins and aleurone grains and functions as a transfer cell layer.In Nymphaeales, the multiple roles of a more typical endosperm have been separated into two different tissues and genetic entities: a maternal perisperm (nutrient acquisition, storage, mobilization) and a minute biparental endosperm (nutrient transfer to the embryo). The presence of perisperms among several other ancient lineages of angiosperms suggests a modest degree of developmental and functional lability for the nutrient storage tissue (perisperm or endosperm) within seeds during the early evolution of flowering plants. Finally, we examine the evolutionary developmental hypothesis that, contrary to longstanding assumptions, an embryo-nourishing perisperm along with a minute endosperm may represent the plesiomorphic condition for flowering plants.