Nitric oxide synthesis and signalling in plants

Authors

  • IAN D. WILSON,

    1. Centre for Research in Plant Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
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  • STEVEN J. NEILL,

    1. Centre for Research in Plant Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
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  • JOHN T. HANCOCK

    1. Centre for Research in Plant Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
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J. T. Hancock. Fax: +44 (0)117 3282904; e-mail: john.hancock@uwe.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

As with all organisms, plants must respond to a plethora of external environmental cues. Individual plant cells must also perceive and respond to a wide range of internal signals. It is now well-accepted that nitric oxide (NO) is a component of the repertoire of signals that a plant uses to both thrive and survive. Recent experimental data have shown, or at least implicated, the involvement of NO in reproductive processes, control of development and in the regulation of physiological responses such as stomatal closure. However, although studies concerning NO synthesis and signalling in animals are well-advanced, in plants there are still fundamental questions concerning how NO is produced and used that need to be answered. For example, there is a range of potential NO-generating enzymes in plants, but no obvious plant nitric oxide synthase (NOS) homolog has yet been identified. Some studies have shown the importance of NOS-like enzymes in mediating NO responses in plants, while other studies suggest that the enzyme nitrate reductase (NR) is more important. Still, more published work suggests the involvement of completely different enzymes in plant NO synthesis. Similarly, it is not always clear how NO mediates its responses. Although it appears that in plants, as in animals, NO can lead to an increase in the signal cGMP which leads to altered ion channel activity and gene expression, it is not understood how this actually occurs.

NO is a relatively reactive compound, and it is not always easy to study. Furthermore, its biological activity needs to be considered in conjunction with that of other compounds such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can have a profound effect on both its accumulation and function. In this paper, we will review the present understanding of how NO is produced in plants, how it is removed when its signal is no longer required and how it may be both perceived and acted upon.

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