Exploring the fate of mRNA in aging seeds: protection, destruction, or slow decay?
28th August 2018 - Journal of Experimental Botany
Seeds exist in the vulnerable state of being unable to repair the chemical degradation all organisms suffer, which slowly ages seeds and eventually results in death. Proposed seed aging mechanisms involve all classes of biological molecules, and degradation of total RNA has been detected contemporaneously with viability loss in dry-stored seeds. To identify changes specific to mRNA, we examined the soybean (Glycine max) seed transcriptome, using new, whole-molecule sequencing technology. We detected strong evidence of transcript fragmentation in 23-year-old, compared with 2-year-old, seeds. Transcripts were broken non-specifically, and greater fragmentation occurred in longer transcripts, consistent with the proposed mechanism of molecular fission by free radical attack at random bases. Seeds died despite high integrity of short transcripts, indicating that functions encoded by short transcripts are not sufficient to maintain viability. This study provides an approach to probe the asymptomatic phase of seed aging, namely by quantifying transcript degradation as a function of storage time.