The tissue-specific syntheses of seed storage proteins in the cotyledons of developing pea (Pisum sativum L.) seeds have been demonstrated by estimates of their qualitative and quantitative accumulation by sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis and rocket immunoelectrophoresis respectively. Vicilin-fraction proteins initially accumulated faster than legumin, but whereas legumin was accumulated throughout development, different components of the vicilin fraction had their predominant periods of synthesis at different stages of development. The translation products in vitro of polysomes isolated from cotyledons at different stages of development reflected the synthesis in vivo of storage-protein polypeptides at corresponding times. The levels of storage-protein mRNA species during development were estimated by ‘Northern’ hybridization using cloned complementary-DNA probes. This technique showed that the levels of legumin and vicilin (47000-Mr precursors) mRNA species increased and decreased in agreement with estimated rates of synthesis of the respective polypeptides. The relative amounts of these messages, estimated by kinetic hybridization were also consistent. Legumin mRNA was present in leaf poly(A)+ RNA at less than one-thousandth of the level in cotyledon poly(A)+ (polyadenylated) RNA, demonstrating tissue-specific expression. Evidence is presented that storage-protein mRNA species are relatively long-lived, and it is suggested that storage-protein synthesis is regulated primarily at the transcriptional level.

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