Grain shattering by cell death and fracture in Eragrostis tef

Yunqing Yu, Getu Beyene, Justin Villmer, Keith E. Duncan, Hao Hu, Toni Johnson, Andrew N. Doust, Nigel J. Taylor, Elizabeth A. Kellogg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Abscission, known as shattering in crop species, is a highly regulated process by which plants shed parts. Although shattering has been studied extensively in cereals and a number of regulatory genes have been identified, much diversity in the process remains to be discovered. Teff (Eragrostis tef) is a crop native to Ethiopia that is potentially highly valuable worldwide for its nutritious grain and drought tolerance. Previous work has suggested that grain shattering in Eragrostis might have little in common with other cereals. In this study, we characterize the anatomy, cellular structure, and gene regulatory control of the abscission zone (AZ) in E. tef. We show that the AZ of E. tef is a narrow stalk below the caryopsis, which is common in Eragrostis species. X-ray microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and immunolocalization of cell wall components showed that the AZ cells are thin walled and break open along with programmed cell death (PCD) at seed maturity, rather than separating between cells as in other studied species. Knockout of YABBY2/SHATTERING1, documented to control abscission in several cereals, had no effect on abscission or AZ structure in E. tef. RNA sequencing analysis showed that genes related to PCD and cell wall modification are enriched in the AZ at the early seed maturity stage. These data show that E. tef drops its seeds using a unique mechanism. Our results provide the groundwork for understanding grain shattering in Eragrostis and further improvement of shattering in E. tef.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-239
Number of pages18
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2023


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