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J Cell Sci. 2013 Nov 1;126(Pt 21):4823-33. doi: 10.1242/jcs.109116. Epub 2013 Oct 21.

Plant leaf senescence and death - regulation by multiple layers of control and implications for aging in general.

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Department of New Biology, Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), Daegu 711-873, Republic of Korea.


How do organisms, organs, tissues and cells change their fate when they age towards senescence and death? Plant leaves provide a unique window to explore this question because they show reproducible life history and are readily accessible for experimental assays. Throughout their lifespan, leaves undergo a series of developmental, physiological and metabolic transitions that culminate in senescence and death. Leaf senescence is an 'altruistic death' that allows for the degradation of the nutrients that are produced during the growth phase of the leaf and their redistribution to developing seeds or other parts of the plant, and thus is a strategy that has evolved to maximize the fitness of the plant. During the past decade, there has been significant progress towards understanding the key molecular principles of leaf senescence using genetic and molecular studies, as well as 'omics' analyses. It is now apparent that leaf senescence is a highly complex genetic program that is tightly controlled by multiple layers of regulation, including at the level of chromatin and transcription, as well as by post-transcriptional, translational and post-translational regulation. This Commentary discusses the latest understandings and insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms, and presents the perspectives necessary to enable our system-level understanding of leaf senescence, together with their possible implications for aging in general.


Aging; Chromatin-mediated regulation; Leaf senescence; Post-transcriptional regulation; Post-translational regulation; Transcriptional regulation; Translational regulation

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