Molecular aspects of seed dormancy

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2008;59:387-415. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.59.032607.092740.


Seed dormancy provides a mechanism for plants to delay germination until conditions are optimal for survival of the next generation. Dormancy release is regulated by a combination of environmental and endogenous signals with both synergistic and competing effects. Molecular studies of dormancy have correlated changes in transcriptomes, proteomes, and hormone levels with dormancy states ranging from deep primary or secondary dormancy to varying degrees of release. The balance of abscisic acid (ABA):gibberellin (GA) levels and sensitivity is a major, but not the sole, regulator of dormancy status. ABA promotes dormancy induction and maintenance, whereas GA promotes progression from release through germination; environmental signals regulate this balance by modifying the expression of biosynthetic and catabolic enzymes. Mediators of environmental and hormonal response include both positive and negative regulators, many of which are feedback-regulated to enhance or attenuate the response. The net result is a slightly heterogeneous response, thereby providing more temporal options for successful germination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / physiology*
  • Ethylenes / metabolism
  • Germination / physiology*
  • Gibberellins / genetics
  • Gibberellins / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Plant Growth Regulators / physiology
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Ethylenes
  • Gibberellins
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Plant Proteins
  • Abscisic Acid
  • ethylene
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases