Abscisic acid signal off the STARting block

Mol Plant. 2011 Jul;4(4):562-80. doi: 10.1093/mp/ssr055. Epub 2011 Jul 10.


The year 2009 marked a real turnaround in our understanding of the mode of abscisic acid (ABA) action. Nearly 25 years had elapsed since the first biochemical detection of ABA-binding proteins in the plasmalemma of Vicia guard cells was reported. This recent--and laudable--achievement is owed largely to the discovery of the soluble ABA receptors whose major interacting proteins happen to be some of the most well-established components of earliest steps in ABA signaling. These soluble receptors, with the double name of PYRABACTIN RESISTANCE (PYR) or REGULATORY COMPONENT OF ABA RECEPTOR (RCAR), are a family of Arabidopsis proteins of about 150-200 amino acids that share a conserved START domain. The ABA signal transduction circuitry under non-stress conditions is muted by the clade A protein phosphatases 2C (PP2C) (notably HAB1, ABI1, and ABI2). During the initial steps of ABA signaling, the binding of the hormone to the receptor induces a conformational change in the latter that allows it to sequester the PP2Cs. This excludes them from the negative regulation of the downstream ABA-activated kinases (OST1/SnRK2.6/SRK2E, SnRK2.2, and SnRK2.3), thus unleashing the pathway by freeing them to phosphorylate downstream targets that now include several b-ZIP transcription factors, ion channels (SLAC1, KAT1), and a NADPH oxidase (AtrbohF). The discovery of this family of soluble receptors and the rich insight already gained from structural studies of their complexes with different isoforms of ABA, PP2C, and the synthetic agonist pyrabactin lay the foundation towards rational design of chemical switches that can bolster drought hardiness in plants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis / chemistry
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / chemistry*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Abscisic Acid