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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2005;67:49-83.

The molecular and genetic control of leaf senescence and longevity in Arabidopsis.

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National Research Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics, Division of Molecular and Life Sciences, Pohang University of Science and Technology Pohang, Kyungbuk, 790-784, Korea.


The life of a leaf initiated from a leaf primordium ends with senescence, the final step of leaf development. Leaf senescence is a developmentally programmed degeneration process that is controlled by multiple developmental and environmental signals. It is a highly regulated and complex process that involves orderly, sequential changes in cellular physiology, biochemistry, and gene expression. Elucidating molecular mechanisms underlying such a complex, yet delicate process of leaf senescence is a challenging and important biological task. For the past decade, impressive progress has been achieved on the molecular processes of leaf senescence through identification of genes that show enhanced expression during senescence. In addition, Arabidopsis has been established as a model plant for genetic analysis of leaf senescence. The progress on the characterization of genetic mutants of leaf senescence in Arabidopsis has firmly shown that leaf senescence is a genetically controlled developmental phenomenon involving numerous regulatory elements. Especially, employment of global expression analysis as well as genomic resources in Arabidopsis has been very fruitful in revealing the molecular genetic nature and mechanisms underlying leaf senescence. This progress, including molecular characterization of some of the genetic regulatory elements, are revealing that senescence is composed of a complex regulatory network. In this review, we will present current understanding of the molecular genetic mechanisms by which leaf senescence is regulated and processed, focusing mostly on the regulatory factors of senescence in Arabidopsis. We also present a potential biotechnological implication of leaf senescence studies on the improvement of important agronomic traits such as crop yield and post-harvest shelf life. We further provide future research prospects to better understand the complex regulatory network of senescence.

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