Dead Pericarps of Dry Fruits Function as Long-Term Storage for Active Hydrolytic Enzymes and Other Substances That Affect Germination and Microbial Growth Academic Article uri icon


  • It is commonly assumed that dead pericarps of dry indehiscent fruits have evolved to provide an additional physical layer for embryo protection and as a means for long distance dispersal. The pericarps of dry fruits undergo programmed cell death (PCD) during maturation whereby most macromolecules such DNA, RNA, and proteins are thought to be degraded and their constituents remobilized to filial tissues such as embryo and endosperm. We wanted to test the hypothesis that the dead pericarp represents an elaborated layer that is capable of storing active proteins and other substances for increasing survival rate of germinating seeds. Using in gel assays we found that dead pericarps of both dehiscent and indehiscent dry fruits of various plant species including Arabidopsis thaliana and Sinapis alba release upon hydration multiple active hydrolytic enzymes that can persist in an active form for decades, including nucleases, proteases, and chitinases. Proteomic analysis of indehiscent pericarp of S. alba revealed multiple proteins released upon hydration, among them proteases and chitinases, as well as proteins involved in reactive oxygen species (ROS) detoxification and cell wall modification. Pericarps appear to function also as a nutritional element-rich storage for nitrate, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, and others. Sinapis alba dehiscent and indehiscent pericarps possess germination inhibitory substances as well as substances that promote microbial growth. Collectively, our study explored previously unknown features of the dead pericarp acting also as a reservoir of biological active proteins, and other substances capable of “engineering” the microenvironment for the benefit of the embryo.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017

published in