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Ethylene involvement in germination of Striga hermonthica (Del.) Benth., an important root parasitic weed on poaceous crops, was investigated at the physiological and molecular levels. Seeds, conditioned at 30°C for 14 days, were treated with ethylene, ethephon or 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC). Ethylene consistently induced low germination. Ethephon and ACC effectively stimulated germination at concentrations of 0.01 and 1 mM, respectively. In contrast to ethylene, both ethephon and ACC acted in a concentration-dependent manner. Germination induced by the synthetic strigolactone GR24 was inhibited by aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG) and 1-methylcyclopropene. ACC reversed the inhibition caused by AVG. When seeds were treated with GR24 in sealed vials, ethylene concentration in headspace gas increased prior to the onset of germination. Total RNA extracted from germinating seeds 12 h after GR24 treatment was used for PCR-based amplification of cDNA fragments encoding the ACC synthase- and oxidase-active site domains. Two distinct cDNA fragments encoding ACC synthase (SHACS1 and SHACS2) and one encoding ACC oxidase (SHACO1) were cloned and sequenced. Southern analysis suggested that each of the cloned genes was present as a single copy in the genome of S. hermonthica. Northern analyses showed that SHACS1 exhibited a temporal change in expression peaking at 10 h after GR24 treatment, which coincided with a steady increase in ethylene concentration. SHACS2 was expressed at a low level with a similar trend. SHACO1 exhibited a temporal change in expression peaking at 15 days during conditioning, when seed response to GR24 was maximal. In summary, expression of ACC synthase and ACC oxidase genes was found to be responsive to a germination stimulant and to conditioning, respectively. The implications of these findings with respect to germination of S. hermonthica under field conditions are discussed.