Probes derived from cDNA clones of napin and cruciferin, the major storage proteins of Brassica napus, and in situ hybridization techniques were used to examine changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of storage protein messages during the course of embryogeny, with a special emphasis on the developing apical meristems. Napin mRNAs begin to accumulate in the cortex of the axis during late heart stage, in the outer faces of the cotyledons during torpedo stage and in the inner faces of the cotyledons during cotyledon stage. Cruciferin mRNAs accumulate in a similar pattern but approximately 5 days later. Cells in the apical regions where root and shoot meristems develop do not accumulate storage protein messages during early stages of embryogeny. In the upper axis, the boundary between these apical cells and immediately adjacent cells that accumulate napin and cruciferin mRNAs is particularly distinct. Our analysis indicates that this boundary is not related to differences in tissue or cell type, but appears instead to be coincident with the site of a particular set of early cell divisions. A major change in the mRNA accumulation patterns occurs halfway through embryogeny, as the embryos enter maturation stage and start drying down. Final maturation of the shoot apical meristem is associated with the development of leaf primordia and the accumulation of napin mRNAs in the meristem, associated leaf primordia and vascular tissue. Cruciferin mRNAs accumulate only in certain zones of the shoot apical meristem and on the flanks of leaf primordia. Neither type of mRNA accumulates in the root apical meristem at any stage.

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