Cytokinins and the germination of Tagetes minuta L.
Tagetes minuta L. is a weedy herb that has been a rich source of fragrant oils, used as in the perfume and flavour industry. T. minuta achenes germinate erratically under field conditions. However, at the optimal germination temperature of 25 °C, 100 % germination is attained within 48 h of imbibition. The achenes are thermoinhibited at 35 °C. The aims of this project were to assess the role of cytokinins (CKs) in normal germination at 25 °C, and to investigate the factors that regulate thermoinhibition at 35 °C. CKs were extracted from achenes germinating at 25 °C at 0, 24; 48; 96 and 144 h after imbibition. Two different purification techniques were used, namely Dowex cation exchange resin followed by paper chromatography, or high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). CK-like activity was tested with the soybean callus bioassay. With both techniques, a peak in CK-like activity appeared 24 h after imbibition, which coincides with the period during which most of the achenes germinated. For quantitative analysis, HPLC\mass spectrometry (MS) techniques were used. The isoprenoid CKs were far more abundant in T. minuta achenes than the aromatic CKs. cis-Zeatin (cZ) and its derivatives were the most abundant CKs. In total, 19 CK compounds were detected, including 4 free bases and a number of corresponding conjugates. Benzyladenine (BA) was the only aromatic CK detected. There was no common time at which active free base maximal concentrations were detected, suggesting that different CKs may have specific roles in the germination process, and thus peak at different times. This in turn suggests that germination is not a single process, but rather a correlative process involving a number of events, with specific CKs having specific roles relating to these correlative events. There is sufficient evidence obtained from both the soybean callus bioassay and HPLC/MS analysis to suggest that CKs have an active role in T. minuta germination. A decline in free BA during germination without corresponding conjugation, suggests that BA is actively used in early germination processes, possibly in the stimulation of DNA synthesis. Secondly, there was a distinct dihydrozeatin (DHZ) peak obtained at 24 h. Roughly 75 % of the achenes germinate between 16 and 26 h, thus it is likely that DHZ has an active role during the germination of T. minuta. Although CKs are probably not involved in the breaking of dormancy per se, the distinct peak in CK-like activity obtained in the bioassays, 24 h after imbibition, suggests that CKs have an active role in the germination of T. minuta. With respect to the regulation of thermoinhibition, a number of exogenous treatments were applied, including hormones [gibberellins (GA₄₊₇), abscisic acid (ABA), ethylene and a number of CKs], adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and incubation in 100 % oxygen. ABA was extracted from thermoinhibited and germinating achenes to assess the role of ABA in thermoinhibition and germination. While exogenous 0.1 mg L¯¹ GA₄₊₇ application slightly improved normal germination at 25°C, no treatments were effective in alleviating thermoinhbibition in T. minuta achenes. Thermoinhibition in T. minuta achenes may be under hormonal regulation, as there is strong evidence for the role of ABA in the maintenance of dormancy and thermoinhbition. High ABA levels were found in dry control samples. Additionally, exogenous ABA application inhibited normal germination, and the commencement of germination was accompanied by a decrease in endogenous ABA levels. A number of experiments relating to the imposition of thermoinhibition were carried out. Thermoinhibition appears to be very rapidly imposed. Germination is rapidly inhibited following shifting to higher thermoinhibitory temperatures, even after prolonged exposure to optimal germination temperatures. Results suggest active de novo biosynthesis of ABA in thermoinhibited achenes. Active biosynthesis of ABA during thermoinhibition suggests that this phytohormone is essential in the maintenance of thermoinhibition of T. minuta achenes. It thus appears that ABA is synthesized in the achenes in response to elevated temperatures that are unfavourable for germination to proceed. Unfavourable environmental conditions result in an achene-mediated inhibition of germination, which appears to be initiated and maintained by elevated levels of endogenous ABA.