Contrapuntal role of ABA: does it mediate stress tolerance or plant growth retardation under long-term drought stress?

Gene. 2012 Sep 15;506(2):265-73. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2012.06.076. Epub 2012 Jul 5.


Recent developments in defining the functional basis of abscisic acid in regulating growth, development and stress response have provided essential components for its actions. We are yet to envision the impact of how differential levels of ABA influence plant growth across life cycle. Here we reviewed the information arising from the recent unprecedented advancement made in the field of ABA signaling operative under calcium-dependent and calcium-independent pathways mediating the transcriptional reprogramming under short-term stress response. Advancement made in the field of ABA receptors and transporters has started to fill major gaps in our understanding of the ABA action. However, ABA just not only regulates guard cell movement but impacts other reproductive tissue development through massive transcriptional reprogramming events affecting various stages of the plant life cycle. Therefore many questions still remain unanswered. One such intriguing question is the contradictory role of ABA known to mediate two opposite faces of the coin: regulating abiotic stress tolerance and imparting growth retardation. In this review, we critically assessed the impact of substantial elevated levels of ABA on impairment of photosynthesis and growth alteration and its subsequent influence on seed yield formation. Excess biosynthesis of ABA under stress may deprive the same precursor pool necessary for chlorophyll biosynthesis pathway, thereby triggering growth retardation. Further, we emphasized the importance of ABA homeostasis for integrating stress cues towards coordinating sustainable plant growth. Also we provided a pertinent background on ABA biosynthesis and degradation pathway manipulation to highlight the genes and processes used in genetic engineering of plants for changed ABA content.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / metabolism
  • Abscisic Acid / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism
  • Droughts
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Homeostasis
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Models, Biological
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Signal Transduction


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Chlorophyll
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Calcium