From intracellular signaling networks to cell death: the dual role of reactive oxygen species in seed physiology

Christophe Bailly, Hayat El-Maarouf-Bouteau, Françoise Corbineau
Comptes Rendus Biologies 2008, 331 (10): 806-14
Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are continuously produced during seed development, from embryogenesis to germination, but also during seed storage. ROS play a dual role in seed physiology behaving, on the one hand, as actors of cellular signaling pathways and, on the other hand, as toxic products that accumulate under stress conditions. ROS, provided that their amount is tightly regulated by the balance between production and scavenging, appear now as being beneficial for germination, and in particular to act as a positive signal for seed dormancy release. Such an effect might result from the interplay between ROS and hormone signaling pathways thus leading to changes in gene expression or in cellular redox status. We also propose that changes in ROS homeostasis would play a role in perception of environmental factors by seeds during their germination, and thus act as a signal controlling the completion of germination. However, uncontrolled accumulation of ROS is likely to occur during seed aging or seed desiccation thus leading to oxidative damage toward a wide range of biomolecules and ultimately to necroses and cell death. We present here the concept of the "oxidative window for germination", which restricts the occurrence of the cellular events associated with germination to a critical range of ROS level, enclosed by lower and higher limits. Above or below the "oxidative window for germination", weak or high amounts of ROS, respectively, would not permit progress toward germination.

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