Plants water stress: Associations between ethylene and abscisic acid response

Carolina Salazar1, Cristián Hernández2, and María Teresa Pino1*
Agriculture is severely impacted by water stress due either to excess (hypoxia/anoxia) or deficit of water availability. Hypoxia/anoxia is associated with oxygen (O2) deficiency or depletion, inducing several anatomical, morphological, physiological, and molecular changes. The majority of these alterations are adaptive mechanisms to cope with low O2 availability; among them, alterations in shoot length, aerenchyma formation and adventitious roots have been described in several studies. The aim of this review was to address the association between abscisic acid (ABA) and ethylene in function of water availability in plants. The major physiological responses to low O2 are associated with changes in root respiration, stomatal conductance, photosynthesis, and fermentation pathways in roots. In addition, several changes in gene expression have been associated with pathways that are not present under normal O2 supply. The expression of ethylene receptor genes is up-regulated by low O2, and ethylene seems to have a crucial role in anatomical and physiological effects during hypoxia/anoxia. During O2 depletion, ethylene accumulation down-regulates ABA by inhibiting rate-limiting enzymes in ABA biosynthesis and by activating ABA breakdown to phaseic acid. With regard to water deficit, drought is primarily sensed by the roots, inducing a signal cascade to the shoots via xylem causing physiological and morphological changes. Several genes are regulated up or down with osmotic stress; the majority of these responsive genes can be driven by either an ABA-dependent or ABA-independent pathway. Some studies suggest that ethylene shuts down leaf growth very fast after the plant senses limited water availability. Ethylene accumulation can antagonize the control of gas exchange and leaf growth upon drought and ABA accumulation.
Keywords: ABA biosynthesis, anoxia, drought stress, ethylene, hypoxia.
1Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias, INIA La Platina, Santa Rosa 11610, La Pintana, Santiago, Chile. *Corresponding author (mtpino@inia.cl).
2Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Fruticultura (CEAF), Camino Las Parcelas 882, Sector Los Choapinos, Rengo, Chile.