Seed longevity is a complex trait that depends on numerous factors. It varies among species and populations, and within different seed morphs produced by the same plant. Little is known about variation in longevity in different seed morphs or the physiological and molecular basis of these differences. We evaluated the longevity and oxidative stress status in heteromorphic seeds aged in two different storage conditions. We compared controlled ageing tests (seed storage at 45°C and 60% relative humidity; a method of accelerated ageing used to estimate longevity in genebank conditions) with storage in a genebank for up to 40 years (−18°C and 8% seed moisture content). We employed as study species two wild wheats characterized by seed heteromorphism: Aegilops tauschii and Triticum monococcum subsp. aegilopoides. We estimated the ROS content and the expression of genes coding for enzymes related to the H2O2 scavenging pathway. Results confirmed that seed longevity varies between different seed morphs. Different storage environments resulted in different longevity and survival curves. ROS levels, even if with variable patterns, were higher in several aged seed lots. We observed consistency in the expression of two genes (GSR and CAT) related to ROS scavenging in the late phase of pre-germinative metabolism. Differences in seed longevity between morphs were observed for the first time under genebank conditions. Our results suggest also that controlled ageing tests should be used with caution to infer ranks of longevity under cold storage.
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