Cytokinin action in response to abiotic and biotic stresses in plants

Plant Cell Environ. 2019 Mar;42(3):998-1018. doi: 10.1111/pce.13494.


The phytohormone cytokinin was originally discovered as a regulator of cell division. Later, it was described to be involved in regulating numerous processes in plant growth and development including meristem activity, tissue patterning, and organ size. More recently, diverse functions for cytokinin in the response to abiotic and biotic stresses have been reported. Cytokinin is required for the defence against high light stress and to protect plants from a novel type of abiotic stress caused by an altered photoperiod. Additionally, cytokinin has a role in the response to temperature, drought, osmotic, salt, and nutrient stress. Similarly, the full response to certain plant pathogens and herbivores requires a functional cytokinin signalling pathway. Conversely, different types of stress impact cytokinin homeostasis. The diverse functions of cytokinin in responses to stress and crosstalk with other hormones are described. Its emerging roles as a priming agent and as a regulator of growth-defence trade-offs are discussed.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; abiotic stress; biotic stress; drought stress; growth-defence trade-off; light stress; nutrient stress; priming; temperature stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cytokinins / metabolism
  • Cytokinins / physiology*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological* / physiology


  • Cytokinins