Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination

Gavin Flematti, David Merritt, Matthew Piggott, R.D. Trengove, Steven Smith, Kingsley Dixon, Emilio Ghisalberti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6pp
JournalNature Communications
Volume2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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germination
Cyanides
cyanides
Germination
vegetation
Seed
seeds
Seeds
Fires
Herbivory
Enzymatic hydrolysis
cues
releasing
continents
regeneration
stimulation
organisms
toxicity
Cues
Toxicity

Cite this

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title = "Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination",
abstract = "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.",
author = "Gavin Flematti and David Merritt and Matthew Piggott and R.D. Trengove and Steven Smith and Kingsley Dixon and Emilio Ghisalberti",
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Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination. / Flematti, Gavin; Merritt, David; Piggott, Matthew; Trengove, R.D.; Smith, Steven; Dixon, Kingsley; Ghisalberti, Emilio.

In: Nature Communications, Vol. 2, 2011, p. 6pp.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination

AU - Flematti, Gavin

AU - Merritt, David

AU - Piggott, Matthew

AU - Trengove, R.D.

AU - Smith, Steven

AU - Dixon, Kingsley

AU - Ghisalberti, Emilio

PY - 2011

Y1 - 2011

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AB - 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.

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