• Apical dominance;
  • auxin;
  • axillary bud;
  • cytokinins;
  • hormone;
  • lateral bud;
  • mutant;
  • outgrowth;
  • transgenic

The role of hormones in apical dominance has been under investigation with traditional ‘spray and weigh’ methods for nearly 5 decades. Even though the precision of hormone content analyses in tissue has greatly improved in recent years, there have been no significant breakthroughs in our understanding of the action mechanism of this classical developmental response. Auxin appears to inhibit axillary bud outgrowth whereas cytokinins will often promote it. Conclusive evidence for a direct role of these or other hormones in apical dominance has not been forthcoming. However, promising new tools and approaches recently have begun to be utilized. The manipulation of endogenous hormone levels via the use of transgenic plants transformed with bacterial genes (iaaM and ipt from Agrobacterium tumefaciens and iaaL from Pseudomonas syringae pv. savastanoi) has demonstrated powerful effects of auxin and cytokinin on axillary bud outgrowth. Also, possible auxin and cytokinin involvement of rolB and C genes from Agrobacterium rhizogenes whose activity is associated with reduced apical dominance in dicotyledons has received considerable attention. The characterization of unique mRNAs and proteins in non-growing and growing lateral buds before and after apical dominance release is helping to lay the groundwork for the elucidation of signal transduction and cell cycle regulation in this response. The use of auxin-deficient, and auxin/ethylene-resistant mutants has provided another approach for analyzing the role of these hormones. The presumed eventual employment of molecular assay systems (SAUR/GH3 promoters fused with GUS reporter gene) which are presently being developed for analyzing auxin localized in lateral buds will hopefully provide a critical test for the direct auxin inhibition hypothesis.