If a seed were in a glass jar without a chance of germination, are there any (chemical) processes occurring inside the seed while it sits there?

My intuition tells me no since my understanding of seed dormancy tells me that dormancy serves as a delay mechanism to increase the chances of survival of the plant.

I deductively reason that dormancy prevents germination by pausing all reactions (processes) in a seed until a combination of conditions triggers the process that initiates germination.

I've done some research online but I can't find anything to support the "pausing all reactions” portion of my statement which would answer my question.


We can consider two processes that a seed might care about:

(1) Ordinary chemical reactions that just happen in the cytoplasm of the seed cells. It's very hard to stop chemistry! Even in the freezer, chemical reactions occur (slowly). This is why long-term storage of biological specimens is generally in an ultra-cold freezer (-80C). Chemical reactions could degrade DNA and proteins and prevent seed germination, so seeds take steps such as drying to reduce the chemistry going on. But, clearly this just slows down the reactions, as seeds of all types gradually lose their ability to germinate (some faster than others). Spore-forming bacteria are the most successful organisms in this regard: they drastically dehydrate the interior of the spore and surround it with a highly protective coat, and there is evidence that some can literally remain viable for millions of years.

(2) Seed metabolism: enzymatic reactions and the normal biochemistry of the cell. "Dormancy" means in part that seed cells shut down processes like transcription and translation and minimize their metabolism. But, research suggests that the metabolic activity of seeds is not zero - among other things, there are active enzymes that are involved in repairing damage to DNA and proteins.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a good answer, but your answer requires references. Please edit it and add support for your claims. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo May 4 '16 at 22:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.