Background: The epidermal cells of the seed coat of certain species accumulate polysaccharides during seed development for cell wall reinforcement or release on imbibition to form mucilage. Seed-coat epidermal cells show natural variation in their structure and mucilage production, which could explain the diverse ecophysiological roles proposed for the latter. Arabidopsis mucilage mutants have proved to be an important tool for the identification of genes involved in the production of seed-coat polysaccharides.
Scope: This review documents genes that have been characterized as playing a role in the differentiation of the epidermal cells of the arabidopsis seed coat, the natural variability in polysaccharide features of these cells and the physiological roles attributed to seed mucilage.
Conclusions: Seed-coat epidermal cells are an excellent model for the study of polysaccharide metabolism and properties. Intra- and interspecies natural variation in the differentiation of these epidermal cells is an under-exploited resource for such studies and promises to play an important part in improving our knowledge of polysaccharide production and ecophysiological function.
Keywords: Seed coat; arabidopsis; cell wall; mucilage; natural variation; polysaccharides.
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