PerspectivePlant Science

How Plant Cells Go to Sleep for a Long, Long Time

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Science  04 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5958, pp. 1356-1357
DOI: 10.1126/science.1184135

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Seeds are plant spores—desiccated, dormant cells in which metabolism and growth have been drastically slowed, so that the organism can wait out adverse conditions. This is especially important for plants, which cannot run away from environmental threats. Instead of motility, they use dormancy to outlast adversarial conditions caused by pathogens or severe weather. Indeed, some seeds remain viable for hundreds of years. On page 1373 of this issue, Nishimura et al. (1) and four other groups (25) report the initial biochemical mechanisms that allow the complex cellular machinery of this multicellular eukaryote to live for so long in a dormant state.