Barley-Seed Germination

Bill Williams WEWilliams at
Wed Dec 3 21:09:34 EST 2003

Dear Plant-Edders,

For years now, we've been using a barley-seed amylase assay as part 
of our introductory-biology lab. The students cut barley seeds in 
half cross-sectionally, so one half contains the embryo and the other 
does not. We then incubate the seeds, cut-side down, on agar plates 
containing either plain starch or starch plates spiked with GA. The 
idea is that the halves with embryos, and also the halves without 
embryos but with exogenous GA, will synthesize amylase. The amylase 
will digest some of the starch in a ring around the seeds, and 
developing the plate with iodine will reveal these rings.

Every time we do this, we get large rings around the GA-treated, 
embryo-free seed halves. Sometimes we get small rings around the 
embryo-containing seed halves and sometimes hardly any ring at all, 
even if the seed-halves have germinated. Last year, we got rings 
around *everything*!

Any idea what we're doing wrong? For the rings around the non-GA 
seeds, could improper storage of the seeds (e.g., getting them damp) 
have caused enough GA synthesis that the embryo-free halves were 
already synthesizing amylase before we cut them open? And, can anyone 
suggest why we so consistently get tiny rings, if any rings at all, 
in the seed halve with embryos but without exogenous GA?

William E. Williams <MailTo:WEWilliams at>
Biology Department
Saint Mary's College of Maryland
18952 E Fisher Road
Saint Marys City, MD 20686-3001
Voice: (240)895-4365
FAX:   (240)895-4996


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