Germinating with FLOE1

Plant & zo

The science of plants and more

Germinating with FLOE1

Cool, that is what you can call the latest research in seed germination. Researchers found that when water is taken up by a seed, a prion-like protein is separating itself, in a kind of gel, from the rest of the cell.

Seeds have the remarkable property that they can survive long periods, years and sometimes even millennia, of drought. As if they are in a deep sleep. Water is the prince that kisses them awake. The uptake of water starts the processes that leads to germination. Although a seed can survive multiple rounds of hydration-dehydration, when the process of germination has started there is no way back. Therefore, it is important to know for sure that there is enough water.

American researchers set out to find how seeds decide that there is enough water. This led them to the above-mentioned prion-like protein, which they called FLOE1. When a seed is in a dry environment, FLOE1 is equally distributed throughout the cells. However, by contact with water something strange happens. Then FLOE1 is clustering together, without further interaction. Dries the seed out, then FLOE1 is everywhere again. FLOE1 is not degraded when it comes in contact with water but separates itself from the rest of the cell. Salt water is having the same effect on FLOE1 as a dry environment. Showing that FLOE1 is a measurement of the amount of available water.

Seeds without FLOE1 are more likely to germinate in a dry or salty environment. And having a FLOE1 that is slightly different can cause seeds to germinate quicker or slower in dry and salty environments. This can be an advantage, for example in an environment where the first sign of water always means that more is coming. In that case, a plant germinating early has an advantage over the rest. But in an environment where water is unpredictable, a quick germination is disadvantageous. The knowledge of this cool research, about which variation of FLOE1 causes quick or slow germination is important for plant breeders. They can use it to develop plants that are better suited to the effects of climate change.


Dorone, Y., Boeynaems, S., Flores, E., Jin, B., Hateley, S., Bossi, F., Lazarus, E., Pennington, J.G., Michiels, E., De Decker, M., Vints, K., Baatsen, P., Bassel, G.W., Otegui, M.S., Holehouse, A.S., Exposito-Alonso, M., Sukenik, S., Gitler, A.D., Rhee, S.Y. (2021) A prion-like protein regulator of seed germination undergoes hydration-dependent phase separation. Cell.

Published by Femke de Jong

A plant scientist who wants to let people know more about the wonders of plant science. Follow me at @plantandzo

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