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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(12):3311-36. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp204. Epub 2009 Jun 30.

Recent advances in ethylene research.

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  • 1Division of Plant and Crop Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK.


Ethylene regulates many aspects of the plant life cycle, including seed germination, root initiation, flower development, fruit ripening, senescence, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. It thus plays a key role in responses to the environment that have a direct bearing on a plant's fitness for adaptation and reproduction. In recent years, there have been major advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating ethylene synthesis and action. Screening for mutants of the triple response phenotype of etiolated Arabidopsis seedlings, together with map-based cloning and candidate gene characterization of natural mutants from other plant species, has led to the identification of many new genes for ethylene biosynthesis, signal transduction, and response pathways. The simple chemical nature of ethylene contrasts with its regulatory complexity. This is illustrated by the multiplicity of genes encoding the key ethylene biosynthesis enzymes 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) synthase and ACC oxidase, multiple ethylene receptors and signal transduction components, and the complexity of regulatory steps involving signalling relays and control of mRNA and protein synthesis and turnover. In addition, there are extensive interactions with other hormones. This review integrates knowledge from the model plant Arabidopsis and other plant species and focuses on key aspects of recent research on regulatory networks controlling ethylene synthesis and its role in flower development and fruit ripening.

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