Metabolic regulation of leaf senescence: interactions of sugar signalling with biotic and abiotic stress responses

Plant Biol (Stuttg). 2008 Sep;10 Suppl 1:50-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1438-8677.2008.00086.x.


Sugars are important signals in the regulation of plant metabolism and development. During stress and in senescing leaves, sugars often accumulate. In addition, both sugar accumulation and stress can induce leaf senescence. Infection by bacterial and fungal pathogens and attack by herbivores and gall-forming insects may influence leaf senescence via modulation of the sugar status, either by directly affecting primary carbon metabolism or by regulating steady state levels of plant hormones. Many types of biotic interactions involve the induction of extracellular invertase as the key enzyme of an apoplasmic phloem unloading pathway, resulting in a source-sink transition and an increased hexose/sucrose ratio. Induction of the levels of the phytohormones ethylene and jasmonate in biotic interactions results in accelerated senescence, whereas an increase in plant- or pathogen-derived cytokinins delays senescence and results in the formation of green islands within senescing leaves. Interactions between sugar and hormone signalling also play a role in response to abiotic stress. For example, interactions between sugar and abscisic acid (ABA) signalling may be responsible for the induction of senescence during drought stress. Cold treatment, on the other hand, can result in delayed senescence, despite sugar and ABA accumulation. Moreover, natural variation can be found in senescence regulation by sugars and in response to stress: in response to drought stress, both drought escape and dehydration avoidance strategies have been described in different Arabidopsis accessions. The regulation of senescence by sugars may be key to these different strategies in response to stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / physiology*
  • Cellular Senescence*
  • Flowers / growth & development
  • Flowers / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Plant Growth Regulators / physiology
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Nitrogen