Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 253–270

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


    • Botany/Plant Physiology, Institute for Biology II, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of Freiburg
  • Gerhard Leubner-Metzger
    • Botany/Plant Physiology, Institute for Biology II, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of Freiburg

DOI: 10.1007/s00299-011-1180-1

Cite this article as:
Linkies, A. & Leubner-Metzger, G. Plant Cell Rep (2012) 31: 253. 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.


Abscisic acidJasmonateEndosperm weakeningEthyleneGibberellinsSeed germinationThermoinhibition

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© Springer-Verlag 2011