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Novel insights into pericarp, protein body globoids of aleurone layer, starchy granules of three cereals gained using atomic force microscopy and environmental scanning electronic microscopy

Elena Antonini, Carolina Zara, Laura Valentini, Pietro Gobbi, Paolino Ninfali, Michele Menotta
  • Elena Antonini
    University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
  • Carolina Zara
    University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
  • Laura Valentini
    University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
  • Pietro Gobbi
    University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
  • Michele Menotta
    University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy


In this study, we applied Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (ESEM-EDS) and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) analysis to three different cereal caryopses: barley, oat and einkorn wheat. The morphological structures, chemical elemental composition and surface characteristics of the three cereals were described. Regarding the morphology, barley showed the thickest pericarp, providing a strong barrier digestion and absorption of nutrients. The aleurone layer of each cereal type contained protein body globoids within its cells. Large type-A and small type-B starchy granules were revealed in the endosperm of barley and einkorn wheat, whereas irregular starchy granules were found in oats. The starchy granule elemental composition, detected by ESEM-EDS, was rather homogenous in the three cereals, whereas the pericarp and protein body globoids showed heterogeneity. In the protein body globoids, oats showed higher P and K concentrations than barley and einkorn wheat. Regarding the topographic profiles, detected by AFM, einkorn wheat starchy granules showed a surface profile that differed significantly from that of oats and barley, which were quite similar to one another. The present work provides insights into the morphological and chemical makeup of the three grains shedding light on the higher bio-accessibility of einkorn wheat nutrients compared to barley and oats, providing important suggestions for human nutrition and technological standpoints.



Avena sativa L.; elemental composition; Hordeum vulgare L.; microstructure; phytic acid; Triticum monococcum.

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Submitted: 2017-11-14 14:29:16
Published: 2018-02-05 10:54:09
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Copyright (c) 2018 Elena Antonini, Carolina Zara, Laura Valentini, Pietro Gobbi, Paolino Ninfali, Michele Menotta

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