Changes in leaf cuticular waxes of sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) plants exposed to water deficit

J Plant Physiol. 2007 Sep;164(9):1134-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2006.07.004. Epub 2006 Aug 10.


Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) is one of the most important oilseed crops, having seeds and oil that are highly valued as a traditional health food. The objective of this study was to evaluate leaf cuticular wax constituents across a diverse selection of sesame cultivars, and the responses of these waxes to drought-induced wilting. Water-deficit was imposed on 18 sesame cultivars by withholding irrigation for 15d during the post-flowering stage, and the effect on seed yield and leaf waxes compared with a well-watered control. Leaf cuticular waxes were dominated by alkanes (59% of total wax), with aldehydes being the next-most abundant class. Compared to well-irrigated plants, drought treatment caused an increase in wax amount on most cultivars, with only three cultivars having a notable reduction. When expressed as an average across all cultivars, drought treatment caused a 30% increase in total wax amount, with a 34% increase in total alkanes, a 13% increase in aldehydes, and a 28% increase in the total of unknowns. In all cultivars, the major alkane constituents were the C27, C29, C31, C33, and C35 homologs, whereas the major aldehydes were the C30, C32, and C34 homologs, and drought exposure had only minor effects on the chain length distribution within these and other wax classes. Drought treatments caused a large decrease in seed yield per plant, but did not affect the mean weight of individual seeds, showing that sesame responds to post-flowering drought by reducing seed numbers, but not seed size. Seed yield was inversely correlated with the total wax amount (-0.466*), indicating that drought induction of leaf wax deposition does not contribute directly to seed set. Further studies are needed to elucidate the ecological role for induction of the alkane metabolic pathway by drought in regulating sesame plant survival and seed development in water-limiting environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Plant Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Sesamum / metabolism*
  • Water / metabolism*
  • Waxes / chemistry
  • Waxes / metabolism*


  • Waxes
  • Water