Arabidopsis seed coat development: morphological differentiation of the outer integument

Plant J. 2000 Jun;22(6):483-93. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.2000.00756.x.


A morphological description of the differentiation of the outer integument of the Arabidopsis thaliana seed is presented. The period covered starts at about the octant embryo stage, extends to the mature seed, and concludes beyond that at the initial stages of seed imbibition. During this period the two-cell-layered outer integument goes through a dramatic differentiation process. The outer cell layer secretes mucilage in a ring between the plasma membrane and the outer cell wall at the corners of the cell. This secretion forces the cytoplasm into a columnar shape in the center of the cell. Before and during this process, starch granules are produced, initially at the center of the outer wall and later within the column. Late in differentiation, the starch granules are degraded as the cell produces a highly reinforced wall surrounding the columnar protoplast and at the radial walls between adjacent cells. This results in a cell containing large amounts of mucilage surrounding and completely outside of a highly reinforced columella. The mucilage and outer wall then dehydrate to leave the columella and radial walls visible as the epidermal plateau and reticulations visible on the mature seed. The inner cell layer of the outer integument also produces and degrades starch granules concomitantly with the outer layer but produces no mucilage. In the mature dry seed the collapsed outer wall remains connected to the top of the columella and the radial walls, but these connections are rapidly broken as the mucilage fully hydrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / ultrastructure
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Seeds / anatomy & histology
  • Seeds / growth & development*
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Starch / metabolism


  • Polysaccharides
  • Starch