On germination, maize seeds rapidly become intolerant of desiccation. Germinating seeds exposed to dehydrating conditions for 24 h show a significant rise in lipid peroxidation and the accumulation of an electron paramagnetic resonance-detectable organic radical, in parallel with the development of desiccation intolerance. Throughout the 5-d-long germination phase and the period of loss of desiccation tolerance, the radical scavengers α- and γ-tocopherol and glutathione accumulate in response to episodes of dehydration. However dehydration suppresses, or delays, increases in activity of superoxide dismutase, peroxidase and glutathione reductase, major components in the protection against activated forms of oxygen. We present evidence of a sequence of events in which activated oxygen plays an early and probably causative role in loss of tolerance of desiccation in these seeds.
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