Thermotolerance in lettuce seed at high temperature was investigated using primed and nonprimed seed or seeds matured at 20/10°C and 30/20°C. During seed germination at 36°C, the structural changes of the seed coverings in front of the radicle tip were observed in an anatomical study. In all seeds during imbibition, regardless of seed maturation temperature or priming, a crack appeared on one side of the cap tissue and the endosperm separated from the integument in front of the radicle tip. Additional changes took place during imbibition: the protein bodies in the vacuoles enlarged and were gradually depleted, large empty vacuoles formed, the cytoplasm condensed, the endosperm shrank, the endosperm cell wall dissolved and ruptured, then the radicle elongated toward this ruptured area. The findings suggested that the papery endosperm layer presented mechanical resistance to lettuce seed germination and the weakening of this layer was a prerequisite to radicle protrusion at high temperature. Seeds of `Dark Green Boston', `Everglades', and PI 251245 matured at 30/20°C had greater thermotolerance than those matured at 20/10°C. Results of the anatomical study indicated that the endosperm cell walls in front of the radicle of seeds matured at 30/20°C were more easily disrupted and ruptured during early imbibition than seeds matured at 20/10°C, suggesting that these seeds could germinate quickly at supra-optimal temperatures. From anatomical studies conducted to identify and characterize thermotolerance in lettuce seed germination, it was observed that genotype thermotolerance had the ability to reduce physical resistance of the endosperm by weakening the cell wall and by depleting stored reserves.