, Volume 241, Issue 3, pp 563–577 | Cite as

Acquisition and loss of desiccation tolerance in seeds: from experimental model to biological relevance

  • Bas J. W. Dekkers
  • Maria Cecilia D. Costa
  • Julio Maia
  • Leónie Bentsink
  • Wilco Ligterink
  • Henk W. M. Hilhorst


Main conclusion

Besides being an important model to study desiccation tolerance, the induction of desiccation tolerance in germinated seeds may also play an ecological role in seedling establishment.

Desiccation tolerance (DT) is the ability of certain organisms to survive extreme water losses without accumulation of lethal damage. This was a key feature in the conquering of dry land and is currently found in all taxa including bacteria, fungi, roundworms and plants. Not surprisingly, studies in various fields have been performed to unravel this intriguing phenomenon. In flowering plants, DT is rare in whole plants (vegetative tissues), yet is common in seeds. In this review, we present our current understanding of the evolution of DT in plants. We focus on the acquisition of DT in seeds and the subsequent loss during and after germination by highlighting and comparing research in two model plants Medicago truncatula and Arabidopsis thaliana. Finally, we discuss the ability of seeds to re-establish DT during post-germination, the possible ecological meaning of this phenomenon, and the hypothesis that DT, in combination with dormancy, optimizes seedling establishment.


ABA Arabidopsis Germination Medicago Seed development Seedling establishment 



This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Dutch Technology Foundation, which is the applied science division of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and the Technology Program of the Ministry of Economic Affairs; by the ‘Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior’ (CAPES, Brazil); and by the ‘Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico’ (CNPq, Brazil).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bas J. W. Dekkers
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria Cecilia D. Costa
    • 1
  • Julio Maia
    • 1
  • Leónie Bentsink
    • 1
  • Wilco Ligterink
    • 1
  • Henk W. M. Hilhorst
    • 1
  1. 1.Wageningen Seed Lab, Laboratory of Plant PhysiologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Plant PhysiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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