Plant Cell Reports 31: 253-270 (2012)

Beyond gibberellins and abscisic acid: how ethylene and jasmonates control seed germination

Ada Linkies*, Gerhard Leubner-Metzger
*corresponding author:
University of Freiburg, Faculty of Biology, Institute for Biology II, Botany / Plant Physiology, Schänzlestr. 1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany, Web: 'The Seed Biology Place'

Received: 27 September 2011; Revised: 13 October 2011; Accepted 13 October 2011; Published online 02 November 2011
DOI: 10.1007/s00299-011-1180-1

Appropriate responses of seeds and fruits to environmental factors are key traits that control the establishment of a species in a particular ecosystem. Adaptation of germination to abiotic stresses and changing environmental conditions is decisive for fitness and survival of a species. Two opposing forces provide the basic physiological mechanism for the control of seed germination: the increasing growth potential of the embryo and the restraint weakening of the various covering layers (seed envelopes), including the endosperm which is present to a various extent in the mature seeds of most angiosperms. Gibberellins (GA), abscisic acid (ABA) and ethylene signaling and metabolism mediate environmental cues and in turn influence developmental processes like seed germination. Cross-species work has demonstrated that GA, ABA and ethylene interact during the regulation of endosperm weakening, which is at least partly based on evolutionarily conserved mechanisms. We summarize the recent progress made in unraveling how ethylene promotes germination and acts as an antagonist of ABA. Far less is known about jasmonates in seeds for which we summarize the current knowledge about their role in seeds. While it seems very clear that jasmonates inhibit germination, the results obtained so far are partly contradictory and depend on future research to reach final conclusions on the mode of jasmonate action during seed germination. Understanding the mechanisms underlying the control of seed germination and its hormonal regulation is not only of academic interest, but is also the ultimate basis for further improving crop establishment and yield, and is therefore of common importance.

Key message
Seed germination is a complex process mediated by the precise interaction of hormones. While gibberellins, abscisic acid and ethylene have been analysed considerably, many open questions remain for the role(s) of jasmonates during seed germination.

Key words: abscisic acid, jasmonate, endosperm weakening, ethylene, gibberellins, seed germination, thermoinhibition

Financial support: Our work and the position of A.L. is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant no. DFG Le720/6), which is gratefully acknowledged. Further information: 'The Seed Biology Place' -

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