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Ethylene – and oxygen signalling – drive plant survival during flooding

Authors

  • L. A. C. J. Voesenek,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Biosystems Genomics, Wageningen, The Netherlands
    • Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • R. Sasidharan

    1. Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Centre for Biosystems Genomics, Wageningen, The Netherlands
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Correspondence

L. A. C. J. Voesenek, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

E-mail: L.A.C.J.Voesenek@uu.nl

Abstract

Flooding is a widely occurring environmental stress both for natural and cultivated plant species. The primary problems associated with flooding arise due to restricted gas diffusion underwater. This hampers gas exchange needed for the critical processes of photosynthesis and respiration. Plant acclimation to flooding includes the adaptation of a suite of traits that helps alleviate or avoid these stressful conditions and improves or restores exchange of O2 and CO2. The manifestation of these traits is, however, reliant on the timely perception of signals that convey the underwater status. Flooding-associated reduced gas diffusion imposes a drastic change in the internal gas composition within submerged plant organs. One of the earliest changes is an increase in the levels of the gaseous plant hormone ethylene. Depending on the species, organ, flooding conditions and time of the day, plants will also subsequently experience a reduction in oxygen levels. This review provides a comprehensive overview on the roles of ethylene and oxygen as critical signals of flooding stress. It includes a discussion of the dynamics of these gases in plants when underwater, their interaction, current knowledge of their perception mechanisms and the resulting downstream changes that mediate important acclimative processes that allow endurance and survival under flooded conditions.

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