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Keywords:

  • phytochrome;
  • ethylene;
  • vegetative development;
  • Pisum;
  • gibberellin

Summary

Members of the phytochrome family of photoreceptors play key roles in vegetative plant development, including the regulation of stem elongation, leaf development and chlorophyll accumulation. Hormones have been implicated in the control of these processes in de-etiolating seedlings. However, the mechanisms by which the phytochromes regulate vegetative development in more mature plants are less well understood. Pea (Pisum sativum) mutant plants lacking phytochromes A and B, the two phytochromes present in this species, develop severe defects later in development, including short, thick, distorted internodes and reduced leaf expansion, chlorophyll content and CAB gene transcript level. Studies presented here indicate that many of these defects in phyA phyB mutant plants appear to be due to elevated ethylene production, and suggest that an important role of the phytochromes in pea is to restrict ethylene production to a level that does not inhibit vegetative growth. Mutant phyA phyB plants produce significantly more ethylene than WT plants, and application of an ethylene biosynthesis inhibitor rescued many aspects of the phyA phyB mutant phenotype. This deregulation of ethylene production in phy-deficient plants appears likely to be due, at least in part, to the elevated transcript levels of key ethylene-biosynthesis genes. The phytochrome A photoreceptor appears to play a prominent role in the regulation of ethylene production, as phyA, but not phyB, single-mutant plants also exhibit a phenotype consistent with elevated ethylene production. Potential interactions between ethylene and secondary plant hormones in the control of the phy-deficient mutant phenotype were explored, revealing that ethylene may inhibit stem elongation in part by reducing gibberellin levels.