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Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination


Flematti, GR and Merritt, DJ and Piggott, MJ and Trengove, RD and Smith, SM and Dixon, KW and Ghisalberti, EL, Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination, Nature Communications, 2 Article 360. ISSN 2041-1723 (2011) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

DOI: doi:10.1038/ncomms1356


Cyanide is well known for its toxicity towards living organisms. Many plants use cyanide as a defensive agent against herbivores, releasing it through the enzymatic hydrolysis of endogenous cyanogenic compounds. At low concentrations, cyanide has been proposed to have a regulatory role in many plant processes including stimulation of seed germination. However, no ecological role for cyanide in seed germination has been established. In the present study, we show that burning plant material produces the cyanohydrin, glyceronitrile. We also show that, in the presence of water, glyceronitrile is slowly hydrolysed to release cyanide that stimulates seed germination of a diverse range of fire-responsive species from different continents. We propose that glyceronitrile serves as an ecological store for cyanide and is an important cue for stimulating seed germination and landscape regeneration after fires.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:cyanide, seed germination, herbivory, burning, fire, landscape regeneration
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Plant biology
Research Field:Plant physiology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Smith, SM (Professor Steven Smith)
ID Code:101465
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:79
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2015-06-24
Last Modified:2018-04-11
Downloads:117 View Download Statistics

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