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Effects of some of the procedural steps of cyropreservation on cryo-recalcitrant zygotic embryos of three amaryllid species producing desiccation-sensitive seeds.

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Cryopreservation is the most promising method for the long-term conservation of germplasm of plants producing desiccation-sensitive seeds. While such seeds are generally termed recalcitrant in the context of conventional storage practices, the term ‘cryo-recalcitrant’ is used for germplasm which is not readily amenable to cryopreservation. Cryo procedures usually involve a sequential combination of steps which must be optimised to limit the stresses experienced by specimens, thus promoting their survival. The present contribution reports on the effects of some of the steps involved in cryopreservation on the survival of the embryos of the amaryllids, Ammocharis coranica, Brunsvigia grandiflora and Haemanthus albiflos, with the ultimate aim of developing a protocol(s) for the successful cryopreservation of the germplasm of these species. The main foci of the investigations were the effects of rapid (flash) drying, the use of the cryoprotectant additives, glycerol (5 & 10%) and DMSO (0.1 & 0.25%), and employment of different cooling rates on the zygotic embryos of the selected species, which are known to be recalcitrant as well as being cryo-recalcitrant. Furthermore, this study reports on attempts at improving the rapidity of dehydration during flash drying by applying a vacuum, and also of providing cathodic protection (via highly reducing cathodic water and/or direct exposure to a static {negatively-charged} cathodic field during flash drying) to the explants at various stages in the protocol. These techniques were employed in attempts to ameliorate the adverse effects of reactive oxygen species associated with stresses imposed by the procedures during the cryopreservation process. The embryos of Ammocharis coranica, Brunsvigia grandiflora and Haemanthus albiflos were initially at water contents (WCs, dry mass basis) of 3.28±0.52, 2.55±0.22, 4.48±0.92 g g-1, respectively, after harvest. These embryos proved to be tolerant to moderately rapid water loss in the short term, with >60% retaining germinability at water contents ≥0.5 g g-1. The results from this study confirmed that dehydration to water contents below 0.5 g g-1 (dry mass basis) compromised survival, and that this effect was exacerbated if the embryos were cryoprotected prior to drying. Interestingly, the rate of water loss in embryos of these species differed, with A. coranica and H. albiflos drying at a (comparably) much slower rate than those of B. grandiflora. Subsequent rapid cooling yielded promising results when compared with slow cooling, as 30% of glycerol cryoprotected, rapidly cooled A. coranica embryos that had been flash-dried to 0.36±0.10 g g-1 generated normal seedlings. It was clear, however, that the effects of these procedures were exacerbated when all the steps of the cryo procedure were applied sequentially. However, the work also showed that these adverse effects may be ameliorated if each step of the cryopreservation protocol is optimised on a species-specific basis, thus promoting the chances of survival after cryopreservation and facilitating subsequent seedling establishment. This was evident in the 30% germination obtained when embryos of A. coranica, which had been cryoprotected with glycerol prior to flash drying before exposure to rapid cooling, while those that had not been cryoprotected or were cryoprotected with DMSO before drying did not survive. The incorporation of cathodic protection during flash drying appeared promising as it promoted the survival of 10% of H. albiflos embryos dehydrated to WCs between 0.37 and 0.26 g g-1 (whereas no survival was achieved without the inclusion of this step), and 70% of A. coranica embryos that were dehydrated to 0.35±0.21. In addition, the reduction of the explant size, from a whole 6 mm embryo to a 3-4 mm excised axis, promoted survival by up to 30% for A. coranica and H. albiflos, even at higher WCs. However, survival in these cases was based on observations of abnormal development, i.e. the development of roots or shoots, or calli. No surviving embryos were obtained from B. grandiflora after cooling, regardless of the preconditioning treatment or rate of cooling, and this was accredited to the greater degree of sensitivity of these embryos to the cryo procedures than those of the other two species. The use of cathodic water to re-hydrate explants after dehydration and of applying a vacuum during flash drying did not result in any observable benefits, and require further investigation for optimisation. The very limited success towards establishing a cryopreservation protocol for the species investigated in this study reinforces the difficulties associated with the cryopreservation of recalcitrant germplasm, which informs the cryo-recalcitrance of some explants. However, the results obtained have helped to identify a number of intervention points that could be used to minimise the damage incurred during the various procedural steps involved in cryopreservation.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2013.


Germplasm resources, Plant--Cryopreservation., Amaryllidaceae., Seeds., Theses--Botany.