The cytoplasm of anhydrobiotes (organisms that persist in the absence of water) solidifies during drying. Despite this stabilization, anhydrobiotes vary in how long they persist while dry. In this paper, we call upon concepts currently used to explain stability of amorphous solids (also known as glasses) in synthetic polymers, foods, and pharmaceuticals to the understand variation in longevity of biological systems. We use embryonic axes of pea (Pisum sativum) and soybean (Glycine max) seeds as test systems that have relatively long and short survival times, respectively, but similar geometries and water sorption behaviors. We used dynamic mechanical analysis to gain insights on structural and mobility properties that relate to stability of other organic systems with controlled composition. Changes of elastic and loss moduli, and the dissipation function, tan d, in response to moisture and temperature were compared in pea and soybean axes containing less than 0.2 g H2O g-1 dry mass. The work shows high complexity of structure-regulated molecular mobility within dried seed matrices. As was previously observed for pea cotyledons, there were multiple relaxations of structural constraints to molecular movement, which demonstrate substantial localized, “fast” motions within solidified cytoplasm. There was detected variation in the coordination among long-range slow, diffusive and short-range fast, vibrational motions in glasses of pea compared to soybean, which suggest higher constraints to motion in pea and greater “fragility” in soybean. We are suggesting that differences in fragility contribute to variation of seed longevity. Indeed, fragility and coordination of short and long range motions are linked to stability and physical aging of synthetic polymers.
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