Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Aleurone and subaleurone morphology in native Australian wild cereal relatives

F. M. Shapter A C , M. P. Dawes B , L. S. Lee A and R. J. Henry A

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

B School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 57(8) 688-696
Submitted: 8 May 2007  Accepted: 26 November 2009   Published: 8 February 2010


The pericarp and aleurone layer of cereal grains are associated with the accumulation of anti-nutritional factors, vitamins, high-value proteins and trace elements. Variations in these tissues may be associated with important differences in the nutritional and functional value of cereals as human or animal feeds. Wild crop relatives (WCR) have been successfully utilised in breeding programs to improve agronomic traits such as dwarfism and pest and disease resistance. Australia’s undomesticated grass species (Poaceae) provide a unique and genetically diverse array of WCRs and therefore the grains of 17 Australian WCRs were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Aleurone of each WCR was compared with that of its nearest domesticated cereal relative, with little significant morphological variation observed to this structure. A novel subaleurone morphology was observed in the Sorghum WCRs which had the appearance of being a very dense protein matrix only sparsely embedded with small starch granules or completely lacking starch granules. Histochemical analysis of a subsample of the specimens confirmed that the described morphology was lacking starch granules and had a proteinaceous matrix. Such morphological variations within Australian wild crop relatives of commercial cereals may provide novel sources of genetic diversity for future grain improvement programs.


Antoine C Lullien-Pellerin V Abecassis J Rouau X 2004 Effect of wheat bran ball-milling on fragmentation and marker extractability of the aleurone layer. Journal of Cereal Science 40 275 282 doi:10.1016/j.jcs.2004.08.002

Beaugrand J Paes G Reis D Takahashi M Debeire P O’Donohue M Chabbert B 2005 Probing the cell wall heterogeneity of micro-dissected wheat caryopsis using both active and inactive forms of a GH11 xylanase. Planta 222 246 257 doi:10.1007/s00425-005-1538-0

Beta T Rooney L Marovatsanga L Taylor J 1999 Phenolic compounds and kernel characteristics of Zimbabwean sorghums. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 79 1003 1010 doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0010(19990515)79:7<1003::AID-JSFA317>3.0.CO;2-F

Champagne E , Wood D , Juliano B , Bechtel D (2004) The rice granule and its gross composition. In ‘Rice: chemistry and technology’. (Ed. E Champagne) pp. 77–108. (American Association of Cereal Chemists: St Paul, MN, US)

Dillon SL Lawrence PK Henry RJ Ross L Price HJ Johnston JS 2004 Sorghum laxiflorum and S. macrospermum, the Australian native species most closely related to the cultivated S. bicolor based on ITS1 and ndhF sequence analysis of 25 Sorghum species. Plant Systematics and Evolution 249 233 246 doi:10.1007/s00606-004-0210-7

Duodu K Nunes A Delgadillo I Parker M Mills E Belton P Taylor J 2002 Effect of grain structure and cooking on sorghum and maize in vitro protein digestability. Journal of Cereal Science 35 161 174 doi:10.1006/jcrs.2001.0411

Duodu K Taylor J Belton P Hamaker B 2003 Factors affecting sorghum protein digestibility. Journal of Cereal Science 38 117 131 doi:10.1016/S0733-5210(03)00016-X

Earp C Rooney L 1982 Scanning electron microscopy of the pericarp and testa of several sorghum varieties. Food Microstructure 1 125 135

Earp C McDonough C Rooney L 2004 Microscopy of pericarp development in the caryopsis of Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench. Journal of Cereal Science 39 21 27

Geisler-Lee J Gallie DR 2005 Aleurone cell identity is suppressed following connation in maize kernels. Plant Physiology 139 204 212 doi:10.1104/pp.105.064295

Ghandilyan A Vreughenhil D Aarts GM 2006 Progress in the genetic understanding of plant iron and zinc nutrition. Physiologia Plantarum 126 407 417 doi:10.1111/j.1399-3054.2006.00646.x

Gregorio G 2002 Progress in breeding for trace minerals in staple crops. Journal of Nutrition 21 5005 5025

Hoover R Sailaja Y Sosulski F 1996 Characterization of starches from wild and long grain brown rice. Food Research International 29 99 107

Jones RL Jacobsen JV 1991 Regulation of synthesis and transport of secreted proteins in cereal Aleurone. International Review of Cytology-a Survey of Cell Biology 126 49 88

Joyce C Deneau A Peterson K Ockenden I Raboy V Lott JNA 2005 The concentrations and distributions of phytic acid phosphorus and other mineral nutrients in wild-type and low phytic acid Js-12-LPA wheat (Triticum aestivum) grain parts. Canadian Journal of Botany-Revue Canadienne De Botanique 83 1599 1607

Kameswara Rao NK Reddy LJ Bramel PJ 2003 Potential of wild species for genetic enhancement of some semi-arid food crops. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 50 707 721 doi:10.1023/A:1025055018954

Kasem S Waters DLE Rice N Shapter FM Henry RJ 2009 Whole grain morphology of Australian rice species. Plant Genetic Resources doi:10.1017/S1479262109990189 in press

Khoo U Wolf M 1970 Origin and development of protein granules in maize endosperm. American Journal of Botany 57 1042 1050 doi:10.2307/2441269

Lazarides M (2002) Economic attributes of Australian grasses. In ‘Flora of Australia, Vol. 43, Poaceae 1’. (Eds K Mallett, A Orchard) pp. 213–234. (ABRS/CSIRO Australia: Melbourne)

Liu JC Ockenden I Truax M Lott JNA 2004 Phytic acid-phosphorus and other nutritionally important mineral nutrient elements in grains of wild-type and low phytic acid (lpa1–1) rice. Seed Science Research 14 109 116 doi:10.1079/SSR2004160

Parr AJ Bolwell GP 2000 Phenols in the plant and in man. The potential for possible nutritional enhancement of the diet by modifying the phenols content or profile. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 80 985 1012 doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0010(20000515)80:7<985::AID-JSFA572>3.0.CO;2-7

Shapter FM Lee LS Henry RJ 2008 Endosperm and starch granule morphology in wild cereal relatives. Plant Genetic Resources 6 85 97 doi:10.1017/S1479262108986512

Shewry PR , Morell M (2001) Manipulating cereal endosperm structure, development and composition to improve end-use properties. In ‘Advances in botanical research incorporating advances in plant pathology. Vol. 34’. pp. 165–236. (Academic Press Ltd: London)

Stone BA 2006 Cell walls of cereal grains. Cereal Foods World 51 62 65

Taylor J Novellie L Liebenberg W 1984 Sorghum protein body composition and ultrastructure. Cereal Chemistry 61 69 73

Taylor J Schussler L Liebenberg N 1985 Protein body formation in the starchy endosperm of developing Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench seeds. South African Journal of Botany 51 35 40

Tesso T Ejeta G Chandrashekar A Huang CP Tandjung A Lewamy M Axtell JD Hamaker BR 2006 A novel modified endosperm texture in a mutant high-protein digestibility/high-lysine grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench). Cereal Chemistry 83 194 201

Thompson LU 1993 Potential health benefits and problems associated with antinutrients in foods. Food Research International 26 131 149 doi:10.1016/0963-9969(93)90069-U

Wada T Lott JNA 1997 Light and electron microscopic and energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis studies of globoids in protein bodies of embryo tissues and the aleurone layer of rice (Oryza sativa L.) grains. Canadian Journal of Botany-Revue Canadienne De Botanique 75 1137 1147 doi:10.1139/b97-125

Watson C Dikeman E 1977 Structure of the rice grain shown by scanning electron microscopy. Cereal Chemistry 54 120 130

Wolever T 1990 The glycemic index. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 62 120 125

Export Citation