Balancing trade-offs between biotic and abiotic stress responses through leaf age-dependent variation in stress hormone cross-talk

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Feb 5;116(6):2364-2373. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1817233116. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


In nature, plants must respond to multiple stresses simultaneously, which likely demands cross-talk between stress-response pathways to minimize fitness costs. Here we provide genetic evidence that biotic and abiotic stress responses are differentially prioritized in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves of different ages to maintain growth and reproduction under combined biotic and abiotic stresses. Abiotic stresses, such as high salinity and drought, blunted immune responses in older rosette leaves through the phytohormone abscisic acid signaling, whereas this antagonistic effect was blocked in younger rosette leaves by PBS3, a signaling component of the defense phytohormone salicylic acid. Plants lacking PBS3 exhibited enhanced abiotic stress tolerance at the cost of decreased fitness under combined biotic and abiotic stresses. Together with this role, PBS3 is also indispensable for the establishment of salt stress- and leaf age-dependent phyllosphere bacterial communities. Collectively, our work reveals a mechanism that balances trade-offs upon conflicting stresses at the organism level and identifies a genetic intersection among plant immunity, leaf microbiota, and abiotic stress tolerance.

Keywords: combined stress; microbiota; phytohormone; plant fitness; stress trade-off.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / immunology
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Plant Development / genetics
  • Plant Development / immunology
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism*
  • Plant Immunity
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / immunology
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Reproduction
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Transcription Factors