• Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • foliar shade;
  • maternal effects;
  • maternal environment;
  • natural variation;
  • red to far-red ratio (R : FR);
  • temperature


The ratio of red to far-red light (R : FR) experienced by seeds during maturation affects germination, but the genetic regulation of this effect is poorly understood. In Arabidopsis thaliana, responses to R : FR are governed by five phytochrome photoreceptors, PHYA–PHYE. PHYA, PHYB and PHYE mediate germination, but their roles in germination response to the seed maturation environment are largely unknown. Seeds of A. thaliana phytochrome mutants and natural accessions were matured in a factorial combination of cold (16 °C) and warm (24 °C) temperatures and high (R : FR = 1) and low (R : FR = 0.6) R : FR environments, resembling sunlight and foliar shade, respectively. Germination was observed in resulting seeds. All five phytochromes mediated germination responses to seed maturation temperature and/or R : FR environment. PHYA suppressed germination in seeds matured under cold temperature, and PHYB promoted germination under the same conditions. PHYD and PHYE promoted germination of seeds matured under warm temperature, but this effect diminished when seeds matured under reduced R : FR. The A. thaliana natural accessions exhibited interesting variation in germination responses to the experimental conditions. Our results suggest that the role of individual PHY loci in regulating plant responses to R : FR varies depending on temperature and provide novel insights into the genetic basis of maternal effects.