TEMPO and 4-nitro-TEMPO spin probes were used to monitor dose-dependent changes in the EPR spectra of irradiated wheat and rice embryos and sunflower embryo parts. Rice embryos were studied in the 233-293 K temperature range using 4-nitro-TEMPO. TEMPAMINE, TEMPYO and DTBN spin probes were also studied for their applicability in the determination of irradiated seeds. All the recorded spectra were simulated, and spectral parameters and partition of the probes among various domains were determined. Despite the contribution of the signal from extracellular regions, it was possible to detect the changes in the water/lipid ratios with dose. The hydrophilic character of the probe alone was not sufficient to distinguish the different doses of irradiation. Line widths and rotational correlation times of various domains within embryo also play an important role. Partition after dehydration was another measure in the selection of the suitable probes for irradiation studies. Better results were obtained in dehydrated embryos for the probes preferring lipid bodies. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.