Seeds4Ever: Protection of stored mRNAs to ensure seed survival

Seeds are a major staple food and the commodity for crop production. Seed storage is essential for the conservation of biodiversity and crop production. To grow into crops seeds need to germinate and for this the translation of seed stored messenger (m) RNAs is absolutely required. Seed stored mRNAs can survive for many years, which is surprising considering their short half-life times in metabolically active cells. Lack of knowledge on how seed mRNAs are protected is a major limitation to understanding what makes seeds long-lived.

The aim of Seeds4Ever is to elucidate how seed stored mRNAs are protected.

mRNAs in dry seeds are associated with ribosomes and my group recently discovered that these mRNA ribosome complexes are associated with stress granule proteins. Stress granules are cytoplasmic foci that contain all the factors required for translation, but translation is on hold. I hypothesise that seed stored mRNAs are protected in stress granules. To test this hypothesis I will explore the cellular localisation of seed stored mRNAs (in dry seeds and in wet seeds of the soil seed bank; WP1 and WP2) and functionally analyse the role of stress granules in mRNA protection and seed longevity (WP3). I will determine at which position ribosomes bind the seed stored mRNAs and investigate the mechanisms of mRNA selection for storage (WP4). Moreover, the seed industry suffers economic losses due to the often short shelf-life of primed seeds (pre-germination required to ensure germination). Seeds4Ever will provide markers that will help to improve seed treatments so that longevity is no longer shortened (WP5).

Seeds4Ever will bring seed longevity research from the physiological to the cellular and molecular level. Findings of Seeds4Ever will be of great fundamental interest but also valuable for conservation of biodiversity in gene banks and ecological settings, and for the seed industry.

Funding: NWO-Vici, Bejo Zaden, Enza Zaden, Rijk Zwaan, Syngenta.