Morpho-anatomical and ultrastructural analysis of extrafloral nectaries in Inga edulis (Vell.) Mart. (Leguminosae)

31 October 2017

Pireda, Saulo; Miguel, Emilio; Xavier, Vanessa; Da Cunha, Maura

The presence of extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) between leaflets is an usual feature in Inga edulis (Vell.) Mart. (Leguminosae). Extrafloral nectaries are secretory structures involved in production of nectar and which serve in the protection of plants against herbivores through association with ants. This study aimed to characterize the EFNs of I. edulis in different development stages and describe their morphology, histochemistry and ultrastructure. Leaf fragments, containing secretory structures, were processed according to standard methods for light, scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The EFNs were classified into three stages based on morphology: pre-secretory, secretory and post-secretory. The pre-secretory stage occurs in young leaves, whereas secretory and post-secretory stages occur in developed and senescent leaves, respectively. The EFNs possess a concave surface and a central cleft in which nectar is accumulated and which was not observed in pre-secretory EFNs. Histochemical tests identified the presence of sugars, proteins, phenolic compounds, mucilage and lipids in all developmental stages of the EFNs. Calcium crystals were identified in all tissues and stages of the EFNs. The secretory cells of the EFNs exhibit a granular cytoplasm, small vacuoles, prominent nuclei, smooth endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria. Post-secretory stage EFNs exhibited intense cytoplasmic degradation and the presence of microorganisms. The performance of EFNs of I. edulis tends to follow the leaf development.