Putting the brakes on: abscisic acid as a central environmental regulator of stomatal development

New Phytol. 2014 Apr;202(2):376-91. doi: 10.1111/nph.12713. Epub 2014 Mar 10.


Stomata are produced by a controlled series of epidermal cell divisions. The molecular underpinnings of this process are becoming well understood, but mechanisms that determine plasticity of stomatal patterning to many exogenous and environmental cues remain less clear. Light quantity and quality, vapour pressure deficit, soil water content, and CO2 concentration are detected by the plant, and new leaves adapt their stomatal densities accordingly. Mature leaves detect these environmental signals and relay messages to immature leaves to tell them how to adapt and grow. Stomata on mature leaves may act as stress signal-sensing and transduction centres, locally by aperture adjustment, and at long distance by optimizing stomatal density to maximize future carbon gain while minimizing water loss. Although mechanisms of stomatal aperture responses are well characterized, the pathways by which mature stomata integrate environmental signals to control immature epidermal cell fate, and ultimately stomatal density, are not. Here we evaluate current understanding of the latter through the influence of the former. We argue that mature stomata, as key portals by which plants coordinate their carbon and water relations, are controlled by abscisic acid (ABA), both metabolically and hydraulically, and that ABA is also a core regulator of environmentally determined stomatal development.

Keywords: abiotic stress; abscisic acid (ABA); guard cell; stomata; stomatal development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / metabolism*
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Environment*
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism*
  • Plant Stomata / growth & development
  • Plant Stomata / physiology*
  • Plant Transpiration*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Carbon