The pattern of physiological events in seed development follows identifiable sequences of gene expression. Proteins, carbohydrates and lipids build up in seeds during embryogenesis, resulting in increased dry mass. The accumulation phase is terminated by ovule abscission and marked by maximum dry mass. Over 20,000 distinct genes are expressed at any one time during embryogenesis (Goldberg et al., 1989), and there are a number of recognizable patterns. Expression continues after ovule abscission controlling the synthesis of storage compounds, preparation for desiccation, prevention of premature germination and the establishment of dormancy. It is suggested that a post-abscission programme of gene expression is completed before subsequent maximum seed vigour can be attained.
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