Molecular genetic perspectives on cross-talk and specificity in abiotic stress signalling in plants

J Exp Bot. 2004 Jan;55(395):225-36. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erh005. Epub 2003 Dec 12.


The perception of abiotic stresses and signal transduction to switch on adaptive responses are critical steps in determining the survival and reproduction of plants exposed to adverse environments. Plants have stress-specific adaptive responses as well as responses which protect the plants from more than one environmental stress. There are multiple stress perception and signalling pathways, some of which are specific, but others may cross-talk at various steps. Recently, progress has been made in identifying components of signalling pathways involved in salt, drought and cold stresses. Genetic analysis has defined the Salt-Overly-Sensitive (SOS) pathway, in which a salt stress-induced calcium signal is probably sensed by the calcium-binding protein SOS3 which then activates the protein kinase SOS2. The SOS3-SOS2 kinase complex regulates the expression and activity of ion transporters such as SOS1 to re-establish cellular ionic homeostasis under salinity. The ICE1 (Inducer of CBF Expression 1)-CBF (C-Repeat Binding Protein) pathway is critical for the regulation of the cold-responsive transcriptome and acquired freezing tolerance, although at present the signalling events that activate the ICE1 transcription factor during cold stress are not known. Both ABA-dependent and -independent signalling pathways appear to be involved in osmotic stress tolerance. Components of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades may act as converging points of multiple abiotic as well as biotic stress signalling pathways. Forward and reverse genetic analysis in combination with expression profiling will continue to uncover many signalling components, and biochemical characterization of the signalling complexes will be required to determine specificity and cross-talk in abiotic stress signalling pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / pharmacology
  • Abscisic Acid / physiology
  • Acclimatization
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Environment
  • Molecular Biology / methods
  • Plant Growth Regulators / physiology
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Protein Kinases
  • Calcium