Sakai Yuki et al.
KEY MESSAGE: Alterations in DNA methylation levels of ROS, GA and ABA related gene promoters cause transcriptional changes upon imbibition to induce seed germination in barley seeds exposed to heat stress during grain filling. Environmental changes, especially changes in temperature, during seed development affect germination in several plant species. We have previously shown that heat stress during rice grain filling alters DNA methylation, an epigenetic mark important for gene silencing, regulates transcript levels of phytohormone metabolism genes, and delays seed germination. However, whether this phenomenon is present in other plant species remained to be elucidated. In this study, we compared seeds germination of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) plants grown at 15 °C (control) or 25 °C (heat stress) during grain filling. Heat stress during grain filling significantly promoted seed germination in comparison with the control. The phytohormone gibberellic acid (GA) and reactive oxygen species produced by NADPH oxidases promote seed germination, whereas phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) suppresses seed germination. We found that in heat-stressed seeds, genes related to ABA biosynthesis (HvNCED1 and 2) were significantly suppressed, whereas genes related to ABA catabolism (HvABA8'OH) and GA biosynthesis (HvHA20ox, HvGA3ox), and NADPH oxidase (HvRboh) genes were significantly upregulated after imbibition. Using MeDIP-qPCR, we showed that the promoters of HvNCED were hyper-methylated, and those of HvABA8'OH1, HvABA8'OH3, HvGA3ox2, and HvRbohF2 were hypo-methylated in heat treated seeds. Taken together, our data suggest that heat stress during grain filling affects DNA methylation of germination-related genes and promotes seed germination in barley.