Experimental Evidence for Seed Metabolic Allometry in Barrel Medic (Medicago truncatula Gaertn.)

Jean Baptiste Domergue, Julie Lalande, Daniel Beucher, Pascale Satour, Cyril Abadie, Anis M. Limami, Guillaume Tcherkez*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Seed size is often considered to be an important trait for seed quality, i.e., vigour and germination performance. It is believed that seed size reflects the quantity of reserve material and thus the C and N sources available for post-germinative processes. However, mechanisms linking seed size and quality are poorly documented. In particular, specific metabolic changes when seed size varies are not well-known. To gain insight into this aspect, we examined seed size and composition across different accessions of barrel medic (Medicago truncatula Gaertn.) from the genetic core collection. We conducted multi-elemental analyses and isotope measurements, as well as exact mass GC–MS metabolomics. There was a systematic increase in N content (+0.17% N mg−1) and a decrease in H content (–0.14% H mg−1) with seed size, reflecting lower lipid and higher S-poor protein quantity. There was also a decrease in 2H natural abundance (δ2H), due to the lower prevalence of 2H-enriched lipid hydrogen atoms that underwent isotopic exchange with water during seed development. Metabolomics showed that seed size correlates with free amino acid and hexoses content, and anticorrelates with amino acid degradation products, disaccharides, malic acid and free fatty acids. All accessions followed the same trend, with insignificant differences in metabolic properties between them. Our results show that there is no general, proportional increase in metabolite pools with seed size. Seed size appears to be determined by metabolic balance (between sugar and amino acid degradation vs. utilisation for storage), which is in turn likely determined by phloem source metabolite delivery during seed development.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number8484
    JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
    Issue number15
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


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