Abstract In isolated embryos from dormant barley grains, synergistic effects of fusicoccin (FC) and gibberellic acid (GA3) were observed on the induction of α-amylase mRNA expression. However, no α-amylase mRNA expression could be induced by both agents in embryos from non-dormant grains. Both light- and electron-microscopy studies demonstrated that there were large numbers of starch granules present in mature embryos (mainly in scutellum) from dormant barley grains but none or almost none in embryos from non-dormant grains. Furthermore, the content of reducing sugars in embryos from dormant grains was about half of that from non-dormant grains. In contrast to GA3, FC was able to induce a strong acidification of extracellular pH (pHe). Clamping the pHe to prevent FC-induced acidification, by using 50 mM MES buffer (pH 5.6), caused an inhibition of GA3- or FC-induced α-amylase mRNA expression but did not affect the germination of embryos from dormant grains. In addition, in MES buffer, addition of FC or a combination of FC and GA3increased the germination rate of embryos isolated from dormant grains, though large numbers of starch granules were still present in these embryos. Based on these observations, the presence of starch granules and a low reducing sugar level in embryos from dormant grains is not a factor for control of grain dormancy and germination.