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The Language of Reactive Oxygen Species Signaling in Plants

Journal of Botany
Publication Date
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are astonishingly versatile molecular species and radicals that are poised at the core of a sophisticated network of signaling pathways of plants and act as core regulator of cell physiology and cellular responses to environment. ROS are continuously generated in plants as an inevitable consequence of redox cascades of aerobic metabolism. In one hand, plants are surfeited with the mechanism to combat reactive oxygen species, in other circumstances, plants appear to purposefully generate (oxidative burst) and exploit ROS or ROS-induced secondary breakdown products for the regulation of almost every aspect of plant biology, from perception of environmental cues to gene expression. The molecular language associated with ROS-mediated signal transduction, leading to modulation in gene expression to be one of the specific early stress response in the acclamatory performance of the plant. They may even act as “second messenger” modulating the activities of specific proteins or expression of genes by changing redox balance of the cell. The network of redox signals orchestrates metabolism for regulating energy production to utilization, interfering with primary signaling agents (hormones) to respond to changing environmental cues at every stage of plant development. The oxidative lipid peroxidation products and the resulting generated products thereof (associated with stress and senescence) also represent “biological signals,” which do not require preceding activation of genes. Unlike ROS-induced expression of genes, these lipid peroxidation products produce nonspecific response to a large variety of environmental stresses. The present review explores the specific and nonspecific signaling language of reactive oxygen species in plant acclamatory defense processes, controlled cell death, and development. Special emphasis is given to ROS and redox-regulated gene expression and the role of redox-sensitive proteins in signal transduction event. It also describes the emerging complexity of apparently contradictory roles that ROS play in cellular physiology to ascertain their position in the life of the plant.

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