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J Plant Physiol. 2005 Aug;162(8):873-85.

Production and scavenging of reactive oxygen species in Fagus sylvatica seeds during storage at varied temperature and humidity.

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Seed Biochemistry Laboratory, Institute of Dendrology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Parkowa 5, 62-035 Kórnik, Poland.


The accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in seed tissues plays an important role in the loss of seed viability during storage. In the present study, we examined whether the loss of germination capacity and viability of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) seeds during storage under different temperatures (4, 20 and 30 degrees C) and relative humidity levels (45% and 75% RH) is associated with: (1) an increase in the level of ROS, such as superoxide radical (O2*-), oxygen peroxide (H2O2); and, (2) changes in low molecular antioxidants (ascorbate and glutathione) and enzymatic scavengers such as ascorbate peroxidase dehydroascorbate reductase, glutathione reductase, catalase, superoxide dismutase and guaiacol peroxidase. Beech seeds progressively lost their ability to germinate during 9 weeks of storage under the above conditions. The deleterious effects of temperature treatments increased with growing seed moisture content at higher humidity. The loss of seed viability was correlated with the generation of ROS during storage, which was more intensive at higher temperatures and humidity levels. The ascorbate content significantly increased in seeds stored in all temperature and humidity variants, when the seeds lost the ability to germinate to a large degree. At the same time, glutathione content dramatically decreased, but it was possible to observe a defensive reaction in seeds stored at 20 degrees C. Activities of all scavenging enzymes, measured after slow imbibition of seeds, significantly increased in comparison to the non-treated control (8-9% MC, -10 degrees C). This increase was higher in embryo axes than in cotyledons. Our results suggest that the loss of viability of beech seeds during storage at different temperatures, above zero, and at different humidity levels is closely related to ROS production, and that the antioxidative system is not sufficient to protect them.

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