Plant hormone interactions during seed dormancy release and germination

Birgit Kuceraa1, Marc Alan Cohna2 and Gerhard Leubner-Metzgera1 

a1 Institute of Biology II, Botany/Plant Physiology, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Schänzlestr. 1, D-79104, Freiburg, i. Br., Germany

a2 Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 302 Life Sciences Building, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA


This review focuses mainly on eudicot seeds, and on the interactions between abscisic acid (ABA), gibberellins (GA), ethylene, brassinosteroids (BR), auxin and cytokinins in regulating the interconnected molecular processes that control dormancy release and germination. Signal transduction pathways, mediated by environmental and hormonal signals, regulate gene expression in seeds. Seed dormancy release and germination of species with coat dormancy is determined by the balance of forces between the growth potential of the embryo and the constraint exerted by the covering layers, e.g. testa and endosperm. Recent progress in the field of seed biology has been greatly aided by molecular approaches utilizing mutant and transgenic seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana and the Solanaceae model systems, tomato and tobacco, which are altered in hormone biology. ABA is a positive regulator of dormancy induction and most likely also maintenance, while it is a negative regulator of germination. GA releases dormancy, promotes germination and counteracts ABA effects. Ethylene and BR promote seed germination and also counteract ABA effects. We present an integrated view of the molecular genetics, physiology and biochemistry used to unravel how hormones control seed dormancy release and germination.

(Received May 27 2005)

(Accepted August 27 2005)


  • abscisic acid ;
  • after-ripening ;
  • Arabidopsis ;
  • auxin ;
  • brassinosteroid ;
  • coat dormancy ;
  • cytokinin ;
  • endosperm-limited germination ;
  • ethylene ;
  • gibberellin ;
  • hormone mutants ;
  • Nicotiana ;
  • seed dormancy ;
  • seed germination ;
  • signal transduction pathways ;
  • transcription factors


c1 Correspondence: Fax: +49 761 2032612 Email:,; Website: The Seed Biology Place