Rye embryos of high viability and vigour can be imbibed for 1 hour, dehydrated and subsequently rehydrated without harm. However, extension of the imbibition period results in progressive structural damage to cells of both the embryonic root and the coleorhiza. Greatest sensitivity to this treatment is shown by the microtubule assembly system and the plasmalemma which loses its integrity permitting the egress of ribosomes and lipid towards the cell wall. Further stress results in fragmentation of the endoplasmic reticulum, disruption of plastid, mitochondrial and nuclear membranes and the dispersion of the contents of provacuoles. Damage is initiated during the drying of imbibed embryos but it is compounded by subsequent rehydration. Coleorhiza cells, particularly those distal to the root, which normally develop very rapidly during the early hours of germination are most sensitive to desiccation. The onset of sensitivity to desiccation (ca. 3 hours after imbibition) corresponds with a transitory halt in the increasing rate of protein synthesis and with the start of DNA replication. These results are discussed in relation to DNA repair and the “hardening” of seeds to stimulate rapid growth following rehydration.