Membrane behaviour in developing wheat (Triticum aestivum cv Priokskaya) embryos was studied in relation to the acquisition of desiccation tolerance, using spin probe techniques. Fresh embryos were able to develop into seedlings at day 15 after anthesis, but it took 18 d before fast-dried, isolated embryos could germinate. On the basis of membrane integrity measurements it was estimated that between 14 and 18 d after anthesis the proportion of embryonic cells surviving fast drying increased and the critical moisture content, to which embryonic cells could be dehydrated, decreased. Apparently, embryonic cells do not acquire the same level of desiccation tolerance simultaneously. Only when all cells had become desiccation tolerant was germination of air-dried embryos possible. Using 5-doxylstearic acid as the probe molecule, an approximately similar lipid-water interface ordering of membranes was observed in all hydrated embryos, irrespective of age. Dehydration had a dual effect on the lipid interface: further ordering of the major part of the interface and the appearance of additional, disturbed regions. The proportion of these regions correlated with the proportion of desiccation-tolerant cells. We propose that the membrane surface disturbance be caused by endogenous amphiphiles that partition from the cytoplasm into membranes during drying. The absence of such disturbed regions in dried, desiccation-sensitive embryos might reflect a lack of sufficient amphiphiles. The relevance of membrane surface disturbance for desiccation tolerance is discussed.
- plant myrothamnus-flabellifolia