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J Exp Bot. 2002 Mar;53(368):391-8.

Submergence research using Rumex palustris as a model; looking back and going forward.

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Department of Plant Ecophysiology, University Utrecht, Sorbonnelaan 16, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Flooding is a phenomenon that destroys many crops worldwide. During evolution several plant species evolved specialized mechanisms to survive short- or long-term waterlogging and even complete submergence. One of the plant species that evolved such a mechanism is Rumex palustris. When flooded, this plant species is capable to elongate its petioles to reach the surface of the water. Thereby it restores normal gas exchange which leads to a better survival rate. Enhanced levels of ethylene, due to physical entrapment, is the key signal for the plant that its environment has changed from air to water. Subsequently, a signal transduction cascade involving at least four (classical) plant hormones, ethylene, auxin, abscisic acid, and gibberellic acid, is activated. This results in hyponastic growth of the leaves accompanied by a strongly enhanced elongation rate of the petioles enabling them to reach the surface. Other factors, among them cell wall loosening enzymes have been shown to play a role as well.

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