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Autophagic programmed cell death in the suspensor and endosperm of Vicia faba : An ultrastructural study

by Wredle, Ulla

Abstract (Summary)
Programmed cell death (PCD) is a widely spread phenomenon among multi-cellular organisms. Without the deletion of cells no longer needed, the organism will not be able to develop in a predicted way. It is now belived that all cells have the capacity to self-destruct and that the survival of the cells is depending on the repression of this suicidal programme. PCD has turned out to show similarities in many different species and there are strong indications that the mechanisms running the programme might, at least in some parts, be evolutionarily conserced. PCD is a generic term for different programmes of cell destruction, such as apoptosis and autophagic PCD. An important tool to determine if a cell is undergoing PCD is the transmitting electron microscope. The aims of my study were to find out if, and in what way, the suspensor and endosperm in Vicia faba (Broad bean), which are short-lived structures, undergoes PCD. The endosperm degradation preceed the suspensor cell death and they differ to some extent ultrastructurally. The cell death occurs in both tissues about 13-14 days after pollination when the embryo proper is mature enough to support itself. It was found that both tissues are committed to autophagic PCD, a cell death characteristic of conspicuous formations of autophagic vacuoles. It was shown by histochemical staining that acid phosphatases are accumulated in these vacuoles but are also present in the cytoplasm. These vacuoles are similar to autophagic vacuoles formed in rat liver cells, indicating that autophagy is a widely spread phenomenon. DNA fragmentation is the first visible sign of PCD in both tissues and it is demonstrated by a labelling technique (TUNEL). In the endosperm nuclei the heterochromatin subsequently appears in the form of a network, while in the suspensor it is more conspicuous, with heterochromatin that forms large electron dense aggregates located close to the nuclear envelope. In the suspensor, the plastids develop into chromoplasts with lycopene crystals at the same time or shortly after DNA fragmentation. This is probably due to the fact that the suspensor plastids function as hormone producing organelles and support the embryo proper with indispensable growth factors. Later the embryo will be able to produce its own growth factors and the synthesis of these, in particular gibberelines, might be suppressed in the suspensor. The precursors can then be used for synthesis of lycopene instead. Both the suspensor and endosperm are going through autophagic PCD, but the process differs in some respects. This is probably due the the different function of the two tissues, and that the signals that trigger the process presumably are different. The embryo proper is probably the source of the death signal affecting the suspensor. The endosperm, which has a different origin and function, might be controlling the death signal within its own cell. The death might in this case be related to the age of the cell.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Stockholms universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology

ISBN:91-7265-893-2

Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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