Calcium oxalate crystal morphology mutants from Medicago truncatula

Planta. 2002 Jul;215(3):380-6. doi: 10.1007/s00425-002-0759-8. Epub 2002 Apr 20.


Plants accumulate crystals of calcium oxalate in a variety of shapes and sizes. The mechanism(s) through which a plant defines the morphology of its crystals remains unknown. To gain insight into the mechanisms regulating crystal shapes, we conducted a mutant screen to identify the genetic determinants. This is the first reported mutant screen dedicated to the identification of crystal morphology mutants. A single leaf was harvested from individual Medicago truncatula L. plants that had been chemically mutagenized. Each leaf was visually inspected, using crossed-polarized light microscopy, for alterations in crystal shape and size. Seven different crystal morphology defective ( cmd) mutants were identified. Six cmd mutants were recessive and one dominant. Genetic analysis of the six recessive mutants suggested that each mutant was affected at a different locus. Each cmd mutant represents a new locus different than any previously identified. The plant phenotype of the cmd mutants appeared similar to that of the wild type in overall growth and development. This observation, coupled with the finding that several of the mutants had drastically altered the amount of calcium they partition into the oxalate crystal, questions current hypotheses regarding crystal function. Comparisons between the mutant crystals and those present in other legumes indicated the likelihood that simple point mutations contributed to the evolution of the variations in prismatic crystal shapes commonly observed in these plants today. The availability of cmd mutants provides the opportunity to investigate aspects of crystal shape and size that have been recalcitrant to previous approaches.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Calcium Oxalate / analysis*
  • Calcium Oxalate / chemistry
  • Calcium Oxalate / metabolism
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Medicago / chemistry*
  • Medicago / genetics*
  • Medicago / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mutagenesis
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Plant Leaves / ultrastructure


  • Calcium Oxalate