Senescence-induced serotonin biosynthesis and its role in delaying senescence in rice leaves

Plant Physiol. 2009 Jul;150(3):1380-93. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.138552. Epub 2009 May 13.


Serotonin, which is well known as a pineal hormone in mammals, plays a key role in conditions such as mood, eating disorders, and alcoholism. In plants, although serotonin has been suggested to be involved in several physiological roles, including flowering, morphogenesis, and adaptation to environmental changes, its regulation and functional roles are as yet not characterized at the molecular level. In this study, we found that serotonin is greatly accumulated in rice (Oryza sativa) leaves undergoing senescence induced by either nutrient deprivation or detachment, and its synthesis is closely coupled with transcriptional and enzymatic induction of the tryptophan biosynthetic genes as well as tryptophan decarboxylase (TDC). Transgenic rice plants that overexpressed TDC accumulated higher levels of serotonin than the wild type and showed delayed senescence of rice leaves. However, transgenic rice plants, in which expression of TDC was suppressed through an RNA interference (RNAi) system, produced less serotonin and senesced faster than the wild type, suggesting that serotonin is involved in attenuating leaf senescence. The senescence-retarding activity of serotonin is associated with its high antioxidant activity compared to either tryptophan or chlorogenic acid. Results of TDC overexpression and TDC RNAi plants suggest that TDC plays a rate-limiting role for serotonin accumulation, but the synthesis of serotonin depends on an absolute amount of tryptophan accumulation by the coordinate induction of the tryptophan biosynthetic genes. In addition, immunolocalization analysis revealed that serotonin was abundant in the vascular parenchyma cells, including companion cells and xylem-parenchyma cells, suggestive of its involvement in maintaining the cellular integrity of these cells for facilitating efficient nutrient recycling from senescing leaves to sink tissues during senescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthranilate Synthase / metabolism
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases / analysis
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases / metabolism*
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases / physiology
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Oryza / cytology
  • Oryza / drug effects
  • Oryza / metabolism*
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / cytology
  • Plant Leaves / drug effects
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Serotonin / biosynthesis*
  • Serotonin / chemistry
  • Time Factors


  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Serotonin
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases
  • Anthranilate Synthase