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Curr Biol. 2011 May 10;21(9):R346-55. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.015.

Evolution of abscisic acid synthesis and signaling mechanisms.

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Division of Biological Sciences, Cell and Developmental Biology Section, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA.


The plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) mediates seed dormancy, controls seedling development and triggers tolerance to abiotic stresses, including drought. Core ABA signaling components consist of a recently identified group of ABA receptor proteins of the PYRABACTIN RESISTANCE (PYR)/REGULATORY COMPONENT OF ABA RECEPTOR (RCAR) family that act as negative regulators of members of the PROTEIN PHOSPHATASE 2C (PP2C) family. Inhibition of PP2C activity enables activation of SNF1-RELATED KINASE 2 (SnRK2) protein kinases, which target downstream components, including transcription factors, ion channels and NADPH oxidases. These and other components form a complex ABA signaling network. Here, an in depth analysis of the evolution of components in this ABA signaling network shows that (i) PYR/RCAR ABA receptor and ABF-type transcription factor families arose during land colonization of plants and are not found in algae and other species, (ii) ABA biosynthesis enzymes have evolved to plant- and fungal-specific forms, leading to different ABA synthesis pathways, (iii) existing stress signaling components, including PP2C phosphatases and SnRK kinases, were adapted for novel roles in this plant-specific network to respond to water limitation. In addition, evolutionarily conserved secondary structures in the PYR/RCAR ABA receptor family are visualized.

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