Unlike animals, plants cannot flee from potentially harmful conditions like
They must adapt or die.
The plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) is the major player in mediating the adaptation of the plant to stress.
Here are a few examples.
|Discussion of gas exchange in the leaf.|
In angiosperms and gymnosperms (but not in ferns and lycopsids), ABA is the hormone that triggers closing of the stomata when soil water is insufficient to keep up with transpiration.The mechanism:
ABA signaling turns on the expression of genes encoding proteins that protect cells — in seeds as well as in vegetative tissues — from damage when they become dehydrated.
ABA can stimulate root growth in plants that need to increase their ability to extract water from the soil.
ABA mediates the conversion of the apical meristem into a dormant bud. The newly developing leaves growing above the meristem become converted into stiff bud scales that wrap the meristem closely and will protect it from mechanical damage and drying out during the winter.
ABA in the bud also acts to enforce dormancy so if an unseasonably warm spell occurs before winter is over, the buds will not sprout prematurely. Only after a prolonged period of cold or the lengthening days of spring (photoperiodism) will bud dormancy be lifted.
Seeds are not only important agents of reproduction and dispersal, but they are also essential to the survival of annual and biennial plants. These angiosperms die after flowering and seed formation is complete. ABA is essential for seed maturation and also enforces a period of seed dormancy. As we saw for buds, it is important the seeds not germinate prematurely during unseasonably mild conditions prior to the onset of winter or a dry season. ABA in the seed enforces this dormancy. Not until the seed has been exposed to a prolonged cold spell and/or sufficient water to support germination is dormancy lifted.
ABA also promotes abscission of leaves and fruits (in contrast to auxin, which inhibits abscission). It is, in fact, this action that gave rise to the name abscisic acid.
The dropping of leaves in the autumn is a vital response to the onset of winter when ground water is frozen — and thus cannot support transpiration — and snow load would threaten to break any branches still in leaf.
|Most nondeciduous species in cold climates (e.g., pines) have "needles" for leaves. These are very narrow and have a heavy waterproof cuticle. The shape aids in shedding snow, and the cuticle cuts down on water loss.|
ABA inhibits stem elongation probably by its inhibitory effect on gibberellic acid.
ABA — moving up from the roots to the stem — synergizes with auxin — moving down from the apical meristem to the stem — in suppressing the development of lateral buds. The result is inhibition of branching or apical dominance.
|Other plant hormones|
|As you read about these various hormones, you will note that: (1) each hormone affects several, or even many, different processes and |
(2) each process is, in turn, influenced by several different hormones.
How these overlapping signals are integrated to produce a particular response remains a topic of active research.