Fast and uniform germination is key to agricultural production and can be achieved by seed ‘priming’ techniques. Here, we characterised the responses of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) seeds to a hot steam treatment (‘BioFlash’), which accelerated water uptake, resulting in faster germination and seedling growth, typical traits of primed seed. Before the completion of germination, metabolite profiling of seeds revealed advanced accumulation of several amino acids (especially cysteine and serine), sugars (ribose, glucose), and organic acids (glycerate, succinate) in hot steam-treated seeds, whereas sugar alcohols (e.g. arabitol, mannitol) and trehalose decreased in all seeds. Tocochromanols (the ‘vitamin E family’) rose independently of the hot steam treatment. We further assessed shifts in the half-cell reduction potentials of low-molecular-weight (LMW) thiol-disulfide redox couples [i.e. glutathione disulfide (GSSG)/glutathione (GSH) and cystine/cysteine], alongside the activities of the reactive oxygen species (ROS)-processing enzyme superoxide dismutase, catalase, ascorbate peroxidase, and glutathione reductase. Upon the first 4 h of imbibition, a rapid conversion of LMW disulfides to thiols occurred. Completion of germination was associated with a re-oxidation of the LMW thiol-disulfide cellular redox environment, before more reducing conditions were re-established during seedling growth, accompanied by an increase in all ROS-processing enzyme activities. Furthermore, changes in the thiol-disulfide cellular redox state were associated to specific stages of wheat seed germination. In conclusion, the priming effect of the hot steam treatment advanced the onset of seed metabolism, including redox shifts associated with germination and seedling growth.

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