Growth and composition of maize kernels cultured in vitro with varying supplies of carbon and nitrogen

George W. Singletary, Frederick E. Below

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study employed in vitro seed culture to determine how C and N supply influence the growth (i.e. starch accumulation) and protein composition of maize (Zea mays L.) endosperm. Immature kernels were grown to maturity on liquid medium containing various concentrations of C (sucrose at 234 millimolar [low] and 468 millimolar [high]) and N (amino acid mixture ranging in N from 0 to 144 millimolar). Low C supply limited starch, but not N, accumulation in the endosperm. With high C, endosperm starch and protein content increased concomitantly as N supply increased from 0 to 13.4 millimolar. Endosperm growth was unaffected by additional N until concentrations exceeding approximately 72 millimolar reduced starch accumulation. A similar inhibition of starch deposition occurred with lower N concentrations when kernels were grown with low C. Endosperm total N content reached a point of saturation with approximately 36 millimolar N in the medium, regardless of C supply. Zein synthesis in the endosperm responded positively across all N levels, while glutelin content remained static and albumin/globulin proteins were reduced in amount when N supply was greater than 36 millimolar. A reciprocal, inverse relationship was observed in mature endosperm tissue between the concentrations of free amino acids and soluble sugars. Our data suggest that under N stress starch and protein accumulation in the endosperm are interdependent, at least in appearance, but are independent otherwise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-346
Number of pages6
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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