The Antagonistic Action of Abscisic Acid and Cytokinin Signaling Mediates Drought Stress Response in Arabidopsis

Mol Plant. 2018 Jul 2;11(7):970-982. doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2018.05.001. Epub 2018 May 9.


As sessile organisms, plants encounter a variety of environmental stresses and must optimize their growth for survival. Abscisic acid (ABA) and cytokinin antagonistically regulate many developmental processes and environmental stress responses in plants. However, the molecular mechanism underlying this antagonism remains poorly defined. In this study, we demonstrated that Sucrose nonfermenting1-related kinases SnRK2.2, SnRK2.3, and SnRK2.6, the key kinases of the ABA signaling pathway, directly interact with and phosphorylate type-A response regulator 5 (ARR5), a negative regulator of cytokinin signaling. The phosphorylation of ARR5 Ser residues by SnRK2s enhanced ARR5 protein stability. Accordingly, plants overexpressing ARR5 showed ABA hypersensitivity and drought tolerance, and these phenotypes could not be recapitulated by overexpressing a non-phosphorylated ARR5 mimic. Moreover, the type-B ARRs, ARR1, ARR11 and ARR12, physically interacted with SnRK2s and repressed the kinase activity of SnRK2.6. The arr1,11,12 triple mutant exhibited hypersensitivity to ABA. Genetic analysis demonstrated that SnRK2s act upstream of ARR5 but downstream of ARR1, ARR11 and ARR12 in mediating ABA response and drought tolerance. Taken together, this study unravels the antagonistic actions of several molecular components of the ABA and cytokinin signaling pathways in mediates drought stress response, providing significant insights into how plants coordinate growth and drought stress response by integrating multiple hormone pathways.

Keywords: Arabidopsis; SnRK2s; drought stress; type-A ARR5; type-B ARRs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Cytokinins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Droughts*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • ARR1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • ARR11 protein, Arabidopsis
  • ARR12 protein, Arabidopsis
  • ARR5 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cytokinins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • SnRK2 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factors
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases