Extracellularly produced reactive oxygen species (ROS) play key roles in plant development, but their significance for seed germination and seedling establishment is poorly understood. Here we report on the characteristics of extracellular ROS production during seed germination and early seedling development in Pisum sativum. Extracellular superoxide (O2(.-)) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production and the activity of extracellular peroxidases (ECPOX) were determined spectrophotometrically, and O2(.-) was identified by electron paramagnetic resonance. Cell wall fractionation of cotyledons, seed coats and radicles was used in conjunction with polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to investigate substrate specificity and molecular masses of O2(.-)-producing enzymes, and the forces that bind them to the cell wall. Seed imbibition was accompanied by an immediate, transient burst of redox activity that involved O2(.-) and other substances capable of oxidizing epinephrine, and also H2O2. At the final stages of germination, coinciding with radicle elongation, a second increase in O2(.-) but not H2O2 production occurred and was correlated with an increase in extracellular ECPOX activity. Electrophoretic analyses of cell wall fractions demonstrated the presence of enzymes capable of O2(.-) production. The significance of extracellular ROS production during seed germination and early seedling development, and also during seed aging, is discussed.
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