Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization

Research Article

Endosperm and starch granule morphology in wild cereal relatives

F. M. Shaptera1, R. J. Henrya1 c1 and L. S. Leea1 p1

a1 Grain Foods CRC, Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW, 2480 Australia


Australia's native grass species contain a diverse array of wild cereal relatives which are adapted to a broader range of environmental conditions than current commercial cereals and may contain novel alleles which have utility in commercial production systems. Characterizing the available variation in endosperm morphology is one of the first steps towards in planta manipulation of endosperm by either the introgression of novel alleles or bioengineering cereal starch and protein. The endosperm of 19 crop wild relatives (CWR) was examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Mature caryopses were fixed, dehydrated, critical-point dried and then snap fractured transversely through the grain. Wild relatives exhibited similar types of starch granules to that of their respective cultivated species, though in general the wild species retained a greater proportion of the endosperm cell wall at maturity. The two species examined with no closely related cultivated species exhibited a rice-like endosperm. Wild sorghum relatives exhibited an abundance of endosperm variations described as variations in starch granule size, shape and surface morphology, and the distribution of protein bodies. This is particularly important because the grain of Sorghum bicolor has inherently low starch and protein digestibility. These variations within the wild relatives of commercial cereals may provide novel sources of genetic diversity for future grain improvement programmes.

(Received March 16 2007)

(Accepted October 18 2007)

(Online publication May 14 2008)


c1  Corresponding author. E-mail:

p1 Current address: Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Queensland, 4001 Australia.