Auxin conjugates: their role for plant development and in the evolution of land plants

J Exp Bot. 2011 Mar;62(6):1757-73. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erq412. Epub 2011 Feb 9.


Auxin conjugates are thought to play important roles as storage forms for the active plant hormone indole-3-acetic acid (IAA). In its free form, IAA comprises only up to 25% of the total amount of IAA, depending on the tissue and the plant species studied. The major forms of IAA conjugate are low molecular weight ester or amide forms, but there is increasing evidence of the occurrence of peptides and proteins modified by IAA. Since the discovery of genes and enzymes involved in synthesis and hydrolysis of auxin conjugates, much knowledge has been gained on the biochemistry and function of these compounds, but there is still much to discover. For example, recent work has shown that some auxin conjugate hydrolases prefer conjugates with longer-chain auxins such as indole-3-propionic acid and indole-3-butyric acid as substrate. Also, the compartmentation of these reactions in the cell or in tissues has not been resolved in great detail. The function of auxin conjugates has been mainly elucidated by mutant analysis in genes for synthesis or hydrolysis and a possible function for conjugates inferred from these results. In the evolution of land plants auxin conjugates seem to be connected with the development of certain traits such as embryo, shoot, and vasculature. Most likely, the synthesis of auxin conjugates was developed first, since it has been already detected in moss, whereas sequences typical of auxin conjugate hydrolases were found according to database entries first in moss ferns. The implications for the regulation of auxin levels in different species will be discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Aminohydrolases / metabolism
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Homeostasis
  • Hydrolysis
  • Indoleacetic Acids / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Streptophyta / growth & development
  • Streptophyta / metabolism*


  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • Aminohydrolases