Ethylene in Plant Growth, Development, and Senescence

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Abstract

Amongst hormones in both plant and animal kingdoms, ethylene, a gaseous hydrocarbon, is unique. Despite its chemical simplicity, it is a potent growth regulator, affecting the growth, differentiation, and senescence of plants, in concentrations as little as 0.01 µl/1. As recently as twenty years ago, plant physiologists were divided as to whether this gas, which had been shown to have a range of striking effects on plant tissues, could properly be called a hormone. Since then, the advent of gas chromatographic means of detecting and measuring ethylene, the elucidation of its biosynthetic pathway, and the discovery of potent regulators of its production and action, have provided powerful tools for physiologists to explore the role of ethylene in plant growth and development. Ethylene is now considered to be one of the important natural plant growth regulators, and the literature abounds with reports of its effects on almost every phase of the life of plants. Although the majority of studies have concentrated on particular processes, particularly fruit ripening, flower senescence, and abscission, many other reported responses of plants to ethylene may be important parts of normal growth and development.