Reactive oxygen species, abiotic stress and stress combination

Plant J. 2017 Jun;90(5):856-867. doi: 10.1111/tpj.13299. Epub 2016 Nov 1.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a key role in the acclimation process of plants to abiotic stress. They primarily function as signal transduction molecules that regulate different pathways during plant acclimation to stress, but are also toxic byproducts of stress metabolism. Because each subcellular compartment in plants contains its own set of ROS-producing and ROS-scavenging pathways, the steady-state level of ROS, as well as the redox state of each compartment, is different at any given time giving rise to a distinct signature of ROS levels at the different compartments of the cell. Here we review recent studies on the role of ROS in abiotic stress in plants, and propose that different abiotic stresses, such as drought, heat, salinity and high light, result in different ROS signatures that determine the specificity of the acclimation response and help tailor it to the exact stress the plant encounters. We further address the role of ROS in the acclimation of plants to stress combination as well as the role of ROS in mediating rapid systemic signaling during abiotic stress. We conclude that as long as cells maintain high enough energy reserves to detoxify ROS, ROS is beneficial to plants during abiotic stress enabling them to adjust their metabolism and mount a proper acclimation response.

Keywords: abiotic stress; abscisic acid; reactive oxygen species; stress combination; systemic signaling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Droughts
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / radiation effects
  • Hot Temperature
  • Light
  • Plants / drug effects
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plants / radiation effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects
  • Sodium Chloride / pharmacology


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Sodium Chloride