Mineral-accumulating compartments in developing seeds of Arabidopsis were studied using high-pressure-frozen/freeze-substituted samples. Developing seeds store minerals in three locations: in the protein storage vacuoles of the embryo, and transiently in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and vacuolar compartments of the chalazal endosperm. Energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy and enzyme treatments suggest that the minerals are stored as phytic acid ( myo -inositol-1,2,3,4,5,6-hexa kis phosphate) salts in all three compartments, although they differ in cation composition. Whereas embryo globoids contain Mg, K, and Ca as cations, the chalazal ER deposits show high levels of Mn, and the chalazal vacuolar deposits show high levels of Zn. The appearance of the first Zn-phytate crystals coincides with the formation of network-like extensions of the chalazal vacuoles. The core of these networks consists of a branched network of tubular ER membranes, which are separated from the delineating tonoplast membranes by a layer of cytosolic material. Degradation of the networks starts with the loss of the cytosol and is followed by the retraction of the ER, generating a network of collapsed tonoplast membranes that are resorbed. Studies of fertilized fis2 seeds, which hyperaccumulate Zn-phytate crystals in the chalazal vacuolar compartments, suggest that only the intact network is active in mineral sequestration. Mineral determination analysis and structural observations showed that Zn and Mn are mobilized from the endosperm to the embryo at different developmental stages. Thus, Zn appears to be removed from the endosperm at the late globular stage, and Mn stores appear to be removed at the late bent-cotyledon stage of embryo development. The disappearance of the Mn-phytate from the endosperm coincides with the accumulation of two major Mn binding proteins in the embryo, the 33-kD protein from the oxygen-evolving complex of photosystem II and the Mn superoxide dismutase. The possible functions of transient heavy metal storage in the chalazal endosperm are discussed. A model showing how phytic acid, a potentially cytotoxic molecule, is transported from its site of synthesis, the ER, to the different mineral storage sites is presented.
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