Endo-β-mannanase activity during dormancy alleviation and germination of white spruce (Picea glauca) seeds

Bruce Downie, Henk W.M. Hilhorst, J. Derek Bewley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


It is not known how embryos of seeds of the Pinaceae protrude from their enclosing tissues to complete germination. Prior to protrusion of the radicle there is an increase in endo-β-1,4-mannanase (EC activity associated with weakening of the micropylar megagametophyte/nucellus from seeds of white spruce (Picea glauca [Moench.] Voss). Mannanase activity is present as three isoforms (pI values 5.0, 4.8, 4.7) in both the embryo and surrounding structures (megagametophyte and nucellus) prior to and during imbibition. Activity of all the isoforms increases in the chalazal and micropylar megagametophyte during germination. Activity then declines after the testa splits, typically I day prior to radicle protrusion, due partially to its leaching from the seed into the surrounding water. Activity increases in the cotyledons and axis as the embryo commences elongation. Seeds from dormant seedlots exhibit a lower germination percentage, relative to seeds from nondormant seedlots, and the force necessary for the embryo to puncture the surrounding structures tends to be greater. Although similar mannanase activities are present in unimbibed seeds of dormant and nondormant seedlots, during germination, enzyme activity in seeds of dormant seedlots is lower. Moist chilling alleviates dormancy in the seeds of the Pinaceae and, during 3 weeks of this treatment, mannanase activity slowly increase. After 3 weeks of moist chilling and regardless of whether the seedlot was dormant or not prior to moist chilling, the force necessary to puncture the micropylar megagametophyte and nucellus is lower, and the speed of germination greater. Seeds from previously dormant seedlots also complete germination to a greater percentage, relative to unchilled seeds from dormant seedlots. Upon transfer to 25°C, mannanase activity in moist-chilled seeds decreases during germination of all seedlots regardless of their previous dormancy status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-415
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


  • Dormancy
  • Germination
  • Mannanase
  • Picea
  • Seed
  • Spruce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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