Interaction with ethylene: changing views on the role of abscisic acid in root and shoot growth responses to water stress

Plant Cell Environ. 2002 Feb;25(2):211-222. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3040.2002.00798.x.


Shoot and root growth are differentially sensitive to water stress. Interest in the involvement of hormones in regulating these responses has focused on abscisic acid (ABA) because it accumulates in shoot and root tissues under water-limited conditions, and because it usually inhibits growth when applied to well-watered plants. However, the effects of ABA can differ in stressed and non-stressed plants, and it is therefore advantageous to manipulate endogenous ABA levels under water-stressed conditions. Studies utilizing ABA-deficient mutants and inhibitors of ABA synthesis to decrease endogenous ABA levels, and experimental strategies to circumvent variation in plant water status with ABA deficiency, are changing the view of the role of ABA from the traditional idea that the hormone is generally involved in growth inhibition. In particular, studies of several species indicate that an important role of endogenous ABA is to limit ethylene production, and that as a result of this interaction ABA may often function to maintain rather than inhibit shoot and root growth. Despite early speculation that interaction between these hormones may influence many of the effects of water deficit, this topic has received little attention until recently.