Cytokinin signaling: from the ER or from the PM? That is the question!

New Phytol. 2018 Apr;218(1):41-53. doi: 10.1111/nph.14991. Epub 2018 Jan 21.


Content Summary 47 I. Introduction 47 II. Historical outline 48 III. Recent developments 49 IV. Towards an integrative concept for cytokinin receptor signaling 54 Acknowledgements 57 References 57 SUMMARY: Cytokinin signaling plays an important role in plant growth and development, and therefore its molecular characteristics are under extensive study. One characteristic is the subcellular localization of cytokinin signal initiation. This localization determines both the pathway for hormone delivery to the receptor, as well as molecular aspects of signal transfer to the primary cellular targets. Subcellular sites for the onset of cytokinin signaling are still uncertain and experimental data are in part controversial. A few years ago, cytokinin receptors were shown to be localized predominantly in the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and to possess some features, such as their pH activity profile, typical for intracellular proteins. Very recently, new data corroborating the functionality of ER-located cytokinin receptors were reported. However, other work argued for cytokinin perception to occur at the plasma membrane (PM). Here, we discuss in detail these partially conflicting data and present an integrative model for cytokinin perception and signaling. In our opinion, the prevailing evidence argues for the ER being the predominant site of cytokinin signal perception but also that signal initiation at the PM might be relevant in some circumstances as well. The roles of these pathways in long-distance, paracrine and autocrine cytokinin signaling are discussed.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; cytokinin; cytokinin receptor; cytokinin signaling; endoplasmic reticulum (ER); plasma membrane (PM); subcellular localization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cytokinins / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Cytokinins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface