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J Exp Bot. 2004 Jan;55(395):237-45. Epub 2003 Dec 12.

Maintenance of shoot growth by endogenous ABA: genetic assessment of the involvement of ethylene suppression.

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Department of Agronomy, Plant Sciences Unit, 1-87 Agriculture Building, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Previous work demonstrated that normal levels of endogenous abscisic acid (ABA) are required to maintain shoot growth in well-watered tomato plants independently of effects of hormone status on plant water balance. The results suggested that the impairment of shoot growth in ABA-deficient mutants is at least partly attributable to increased ethylene production. To assess the extent to which ABA maintains shoot growth by ethylene suppression, the growth of ABA-deficient (aba2-1) and ethylene-insensitive (etr1-1) single- and double-mutants of Arabidopsis was examined. To ensure that the results were independent of effects of hormone status on plant water balance, differential relative humidity regimes were used to achieve similar leaf water potentials in all genotypes and treatments. In aba2-1, shoot growth was substantially inhibited and ethylene evolution was doubled compared with the wild type, consistent with the results for tomato. In the aba2-1 etr1-1 double mutant, in which ABA was equally as deficient as in aba2-1 and shoot growth was shown to be insensitive to ethylene, shoot growth was substantially, although incompletely, restored relative to etr1-1. Treatment with ABA resulted in the complete recovery of shoot growth in aba2-1 relative to the wild type, and also significantly increased the growth of aba2-1 etr1-1 such that total leaf area and shoot fresh weight were not significantly lower than in etr1-1. In addition, ABA treatment of aba2-1 etr1-1 restored the wider leaf morphology phenotype exhibited by etr1-1. The results demonstrate that normal levels of endogenous ABA maintain shoot development, particularly leaf expansion, in well-watered Arabidopsis plants, partly by suppressing ethylene synthesis and partly by another mechanism that is independent of ethylene.

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