Membrane damage as a result of dehydration was studied in Lotus corniculatus L. cv. Carroll seeds which had been pregerminated for 0, 12, and 24 hours prior to dehydration. During reimbibition, desiccation-tolerant (0- and 12-hour) seeds leaked relatively low quantities of all solutes (total electrolytes, potassium, phosphate, sugar, amino acid, and protein). Desiccation-sensitive (24-hour) seeds leaked higher levels, but evidence of selective permeability remained. Membrane damage was not manifested as a complete removal of the diffusion barrier, although its permeability properties were dramatically altered. Consequently, the plasmalemma was not ruptured or torn by the dehydration treatment, but a more subtle structural alteration occurred.The possibility that seed membranes form a hexagonal rather than a lamellar phase at moisture contents below 20% was investigated by x-ray diffraction. Phospholipids were extracted from desiccation-tolerant (0-hour) and desiccation-sensitive (24-hour) seeds and hydrated to 5, 10, 20, and 40% water. This phospholipid-water system was examined using low-and wide-angle x-ray diffraction and was found to be exclusively lamellar, even at 5% water. Consequently, membrane damage and the leakage of cytoplasmic solutes from seeds cannot be explained by the formation of a hexagonal phase by membrane phospholipids.
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