Auxin regulated metabolic changes underlying sepal retention and development after pollination in spinach

Mahpara Fatima, Xiaokai Ma, Ping Zhou, Madiha Zaynab, Ray Ming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pollination accelerate sepal development that enhances plant fitness by protecting seeds in female spinach. This response requires pollination signals that result in the remodeling within the sepal cells for retention and development, but the regulatory mechanism for this response is still unclear. To investigate the early pollination-induced metabolic changes in sepal, we utilize the high-throughput RNA-seq approach. Results: Spinach variety ‘Cornel 9’ was used for differentially expressed gene analysis followed by experiments of auxin analog and auxin inhibitor treatments. We first compared the candidate transcripts expressed differentially at different time points (12H, 48H, and 96H) after pollination and detected significant difference in Trp-dependent auxin biosynthesis and auxin modulation and transduction process. Furthermore, several auxin regulatory pathways i.e. cell division, cell wall expansion, and biogenesis were activated from pollination to early developmental symptoms in sepals following pollination. To further confirm the role auxin genes play in the sepal development, auxin analog (2, 4-D; IAA) and auxin transport inhibitor (NPA) with different concentrations gradient were sprayed to the spinach unpollinated and pollinated flowers, respectively. NPA treatment resulted in auxin transport weakening that led to inhibition of sepal development at concentration 0.1 and 1 mM after pollination. 2, 4-D and IAA treatment to unpollinated flowers resulted in sepal development at lower concentration but wilting at higher concentration. Conclusion: We hypothesized that sepal retention and development might have associated with auxin homeostasis that regulates the sepal size by modulating associated pathways. These findings advanced the understanding of this unusual phenomenon of sepal growth instead of abscission after pollination in spinach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Auxin biosynthesis
  • Pollination
  • Sepal development
  • Spinach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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