, Volume 220, Issue 2, pp 251–261

Abscisic acid controls embryo growth potential and endosperm cap weakening during coffee (Coffea arabica cv. Rubi) seed germination

  • E. A. Amaral da Silva
  • Peter E. Toorop
  • Adriaan C. van Aelst
  • Henk W. M. Hilhorst
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00425-004-1344-0

Cite this article as:
da Silva, E.A.A., Toorop, P.E., van Aelst, A.C. et al. Planta (2004) 220: 251. doi:10.1007/s00425-004-1344-0


The mechanism and regulation of coffee seed germination were studied in Coffea arabica L. cv. Rubi. The coffee embryo grew inside the endosperm prior to radicle protrusion and abscisic acid (ABA) inhibited the increase in its pressure potential. There were two steps of endosperm cap weakening. An increase in cellulase activity coincided with the first step and an increase in endo-β-mannanase (EBM) activity with the second step. ABA inhibited the second step of endosperm cap weakening, presumably by inhibiting the activities of at least two EBM isoforms and/or, indirectly, by inhibiting the pressure force of the radicle. The increase in the activities of EBM and cellulase coincided with the decrease in the force required to puncture the endosperm and with the appearance of porosity in the cell walls as observed by low-temperature scanning electronic microscopy. Tissue printing showed that EBM activity was spatially regulated in the endosperm. Activity was initiated in the endosperm cap whereas later during germination it could also be detected in the remainder of the endosperm. Tissue printing revealed that ABA inhibited most of the EBM activity in the endosperm cap, but not in the remainder of the endosperm. ABA did not inhibit cellulase activity. There was a transient rise in ABA content in the embryo during imbibition, which was likely to be responsible for slow germination, suggesting that endogenous ABA also may control embryo growth potential and the second step of endosperm cap weakening during coffee seed germination.


Abscisic acidCellulaseCoffeaCoffee seedEndo-β-mannanaseEndosperm weakening



Abscisic acid




Iso-electric focusing


Scanning electron microscopy

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. A. Amaral da Silva
    • 2
  • Peter E. Toorop
    • 3
  • Adriaan C. van Aelst
    • 4
  • Henk W. M. Hilhorst
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant PhysiologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Departamento de Ciências Florestais, CP 37Universidade Federal de LavrasLavrasBrazil
  3. 3.Royal Botanic GardensHaywards HeathUK
  4. 4.Laboratory of Cell BiologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands