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Open Access Research article

The structural and photosynthetic characteristics of the exposed peduncle of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.): an important photosynthate source for grain-filling

Lingan Kong, Fahong Wang*, Bo Feng, Shengdong Li, Jisheng Si and Bin Zhang

Author Affiliations

Crop Research Institute, Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 28 Sangyuan Road, Jinan 250100, Shandong, China

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BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-141

Published: 11 July 2010



In wheat (Triticum aestivum L), the flag leaf has been thought of as the main source of assimilates for grain growth, whereas the peduncle has commonly been thought of as a transporting organ. The photosynthetic characteristics of the exposed peduncle have therefore been neglected. In this study, we investigated the anatomical traits of the exposed peduncle during wheat grain ontogenesis, and we compared the exposed peduncle to the flag leaf with respect to chloroplast ultrastructure, photosystem II (PSII) quantum yield, and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPCase; EC activity.


Transmission electron microscope observations showed well-developed chloroplasts with numerous granum stacks at grain-filling stages 1, 2 and 3 in both the flag leaf and the exposed peduncle. In the exposed peduncle, the membranes constituting the thylakoids were very distinct and plentiful, but in the flag leaf, there was a sharp breakdown at stage 4 and complete disintegration of the thylakoid membranes at stage 5. PSII quantum yield assays revealed that the photosynthetic efficiency remained constant at stages 1, 2 and 3 and then declined in both organs. However, the decline occurred more dramatically in the flag leaf than in the exposed peduncle. An enzyme assay showed that at stages 1 and 2 the PEPCase activity was lower in the exposed peduncle than in the flag leaf; but at stages 3, 4 and 5 the value was higher in the exposed peduncle, with a particularly significant difference observed at stage 5. Subjecting the exposed part of the peduncle to darkness following anthesis reduced the rate of grain growth.


Our results suggest that the exposed peduncle is a photosynthetically active organ that produces photosynthates and thereby makes a crucial contribution to grain growth, particularly during the late stages of grain-filling.