The role of abscisic acid (ABA) in seed germination of two cultivars of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.; light-sensitive Ritsa and light-insensitive Strada) was investigated. The inhibition of Ritsa seed germination by exogenous ABA was higher than that of Strada seeds, the extent of inhibition of both cultivars being reduced by a short light break. At 25°C the sensitivity of both cultivars to exogenous ABA was higher than at 15°C. The endogenous level of ABA was similar in dry seeds of both cultivars, increasing temporarily in Ritsa seeds during the first 4 h of imbibition in darkness but not in Strada seeds, nor in Ritsa seeds exposed to a short light break. The transitory increase of ABA content in Ritsa seeds imbibed in darkness was accompanied by increased expression of the gene responsive to ABA (Rab) under these conditions. Zorial (Norflurazone), an ABA-biosynthesis inhibitor, decreased ABA content and allowed dark germination of the light-requiring Ritsa seeds. A short light break induced germination of Ritsa seeds when applied at 24 and 48 h after imbibition onset, i.e. after the transitory increase of ABA. GA3, on the other hand was effective when applied at the beginning of imbibition. It seems that light induces germination of the photoblastic Ritsa seeds by both inhibiting ABA synthesis and decreasing seed sensitivity to ABA and inhibitory processes induced by it.