Nitric oxide reduces seed dormancy in Arabidopsis

Paul C. Bethke, Igor G.L. Libourel, Russell L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


Dormancy is a property of many mature seeds, and experimentation over the past century has identified numerous chemical treatments that will reduce seed dormancy. Nitrogen-containing compounds including nitrate, nitrite, and cyanide break seed dormancy in a range of species. Experiments are described here that were carried out to further our understanding of the mechanism whereby these and other compounds, such as the nitric oxide (NO) donor sodium nitroprusside (SNP), bring about a reduction in seed dormancy of Arabidopsis thaliana. A simple method was devised for applying the products of SNP photolysis through the gas phase. Using this approach it was shown that SNP, as well as potassium ferricyanide (Fe(III)CN) and potassium ferrocyanide (Fe(II)CN), reduced dormancy of Arabidopsis seeds by generating cyanide (CN). The effects of potassium cyanide (KCN) on dormant seeds were tested and it was confirmed that cyanide vapours were sufficient to break Arabidopsis seed dormancy. Nitrate and nitrite also reduced Arabidopsis seed dormancy and resulted in substantial rates of germination. The effects of CN, nitrite, and nitrate on dormancy were prevented by the NO scavenger c-PTIO. It was confirmed that NO plays a role in reducing seed dormancy by using purified NO gas, and a model to explain how nitrogen-containing compounds may break dormancy in Arabidopsis is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Arabidopsis
  • Cyanide
  • Nitric oxide donor
  • Seed dormancy
  • Sodium nitroprusside (SNP)


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