Embryos of apple (Malus domestica Borh. cv. Antonówka) were treated with 1 mM gaseous HCN for 6 h and cultured under a 12 h photoperiod. HCN pretreatment stimulated germination, increased the length of hypocotyls, shortened the main root and decreased the percentages of seedlings with asymmetrically grown as well as with asymmetrically greened cotyledons. High activity of β-cyanoalanine synthase (EC 188.8.131.52) and a sharp increase in cyanogen content during embryo culture suggested very low levels of endogenous HCN. despite the activity of HCN releasing enzymes. The obtained data allow us to postulate an important role for cyanide in the regulatory complex controlling dormancy in apple seeds. Experiments with respiratory inhibitors indicated, however, that HCN pretreatment affected neither the alternative electron transport pathway nor residual respiration.