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J Exp Bot. 2010 Jul;61(12):3199-210. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erq151. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

ABA receptors: the START of a new paradigm in phytohormone signalling.

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Plant Stress Genomics Research Center, 4700 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal 23955-6900, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) plays a central role in plant development and in plant adaptation to both biotic and abiotic stressors. In recent years, knowledge of ABA metabolism and signal transduction has advanced rapidly to provide detailed glimpses of the hormone's activities at the molecular level. Despite this progress, many gaps in understanding have remained, particularly at the early stages of ABA perception by the plant cell. The search for an ABA receptor protein has produced multiple candidates, including GCR2, GTG1, and GTG2, and CHLH. In addition to these candidates, in 2009 several research groups converged on a novel family of Arabidopsis proteins that bind ABA, and thereby interact directly with a class of protein phosphatases that are well known as critical players in ABA signal transduction. The PYR/PYL/RCAR receptor family is homologous to the Bet v 1-fold and START domain proteins. It consists of 14 members, nearly all of which appear capable of participating in an ABA receptor-signal complex that responds to the hormone by activating the transcription of ABA-responsive genes. Evidence is provided here that PYR/PYL/RCAR receptors can also drive the phosphorylation of the slow anion channel SLAC1 to provide a fast and timely response to the ABA signal. Crystallographic studies have vividly shown the mechanics of ABA binding to PYR/PYL/RCAR receptors, presenting a model that bears some resemblance to the binding of gibberellins to GID1 receptors. Since this ABA receptor family is highly conserved in crop species, its discovery is likely to usher a new wave of progress in the elucidation and manipulation of plant stress responses in agricultural settings.

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