The synthesis of the major protein and lipid storage reserves during embryogenesis in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L., cv. Mikado) has been examined by biochemical, immunological and immunocytochemical techniques. The mature seeds contained about 45% (w/w) storage oil and 25% (w/w) protein. There were three major seed protein components, i.e. about 40-50% total protein was cruciferin, 20% was napin and 20% was a 18 kDa hydrophobic polypeptide associated with the proteinaceous membrane surrounding the storage oil bodies. Embryogenesis was divided into four overlapping stages with regard to the synthesis of these storage components: (1) for the first 3 weeks after flowering, little, if any, synthesis of storage components was observed; (2) storage-oil synthesis began at about week 3, and maximal rates were from weeks 4 to 7; (3) synthesis of the soluble storage proteins cruciferin and napin started at week 6 and rates were maximal between weeks 8 and 11; (4) the final stage was the synthesis of the 19 kDa oil-body polypeptide, which started at weeks 8-10 and was at a maximal rate between weeks 10 and 12. The synthesis of the 19 kDa oil-body protein therefore occurred independently of the synthesis of the soluble seed storage proteins. This former synthesis did not occur until shortly before the insertion of the 19 kDa polypeptide into the oil-body membrane. No evidence was found, either from sucrose-density-gradient-centrifugation experiments or from immunogold-labelling studies, for its prior accumulation in the endoplasmic reticulum. Conventional and immunogold-electron-microscopic studies showed that oil bodies were synthesized in the early to middle stages of seed development without a strongly electron-dense membrane. Such a membrane was only found at later stages of seed development, concomitantly with the synthesis of the 19 kDa protein. It is proposed that, in rapeseed embryos, oil bodies are initially formed with no proteinaceous membrane. Such a membrane is formed later in development after insertion by ribosomes of the hydrophobic 19 kDa polypeptide directly into the oil bodies.

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