The agony of choice: how plants balance growth and survival under water-limiting conditions

Plant Physiol. 2013 Aug;162(4):1768-79. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.220921. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


When confronted with water limitation, plants actively reprogram their metabolism and growth. Recently, it has become clear that growing tissues show specific and highly dynamic responses to drought, which differ from the well-studied responses in mature tissues. Here, we provide an overview of recent advances in understanding shoot growth regulation in water-limiting conditions. Of special interest is the balance between maintained growth and competitiveness on the one hand and ensured survival on the other hand. A number of master regulators controlling this balance have been identified, such as DELLAs and APETALA2/ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR-type transcription factors. The possibilities of engineering or breeding crops that maintain growth in periods of mild drought, while still being able to activate protective tolerance mechanisms, are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development
  • Droughts
  • Plant Cells / physiology*
  • Plant Development*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Water*


  • Plant Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Water