Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 43–53 | Cite as

The role of ethylene in the senescence of carnation flowers, a review

  • A. C. Van Altvorst
  • A. G. Bovy


The senescence of flower petals is a highly regulated developmental process which requires active gene expression and protein synthesis. The biochemical changes associated with petal senescence in carnation flowers include an increase in hydrolytic enzymes, degradation of macro-molecules, increased respiratory activity and a climacteric-like increase in ethylene production. It is clear that the gaseous phytohormone ethylene plays a critical role in the regulation and coordination of senescence processes. Many reviews on physiology and mode of action of ethylene are available. Molecular cloning led to the isolation of genes involved in ethylene biosynthesis and action. This review describes the current status of the studies on regulation of ethylene biosynthesis and ethylene response in carnation flowers. An overview is given of studies on senescence-related gene expression and possibilities to improve postharvest longevity by genetic engineering.

Key words

carnation Dianthus caryophyllus ethylene senescence 



1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid


α-amino-isobutyric acid


amino oxyacetic acid


aminoathoxyvinyl glycine




ethylene forming enzyme


malonyl 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid




2,5 norbornadiene


parts per billion




silver thiosulphate


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Abeles FA, Morgan PW and Salveit ME (1992) Ethylene in plant biology. Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Acaster MA and Kende H (1983) Properties and partial purification of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid synthase. Plant Physiol 72: 139–145Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Amrhein ND, Schneebeck D, Skorupka H, Tophof S and Stockigt J (1981) Identification of a major metabolite of the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid in higher plants. Naturwissenschaften 68: 619–620Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Baker JE, Wang CY, Lieberman M and Hardenburg R (1977) Delay of senescence in carnations by a rhizobitoxine analog and sodium benzoate. HortScience 12: 38–39Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bichara AE and Van Staden J (1993) The effect of aminooxy-acetic acid and cytokinin combinations on carnation flower longevity. Plant Growth Regul 13: 161–167Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bleecker AB, Estelle MA, Somerville C and Kende H (1988) Insensitivity to ethylene conferred by a dominant mutation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Science 241: 1086–1089Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Boller T (1991) Ethylene in pathogenesis and disease resistance. In: Mattoo AK and Suttle JC (eds) The plant hormone ethylene, pp 293–314. CRC PressGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Borochov A and Woodson WR (1989) Physiology and biochemistry of flower petal senescence. Hortic Reviews 11: 15–43Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bossé CA and Van Staden J (1989) Cytokinins in cut carnation flowers. V. Effects of cytokinin type, concentration and mode of application on flower longevity. J Plant Phys 135: 155–159Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Brandt AS and Woodson WR (1992) Variation in flower senescence and ethylene biosynthesis among carnations. Hort Science 27: 1100–1102Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Brown JH, Legge RL, Sisler EC, Baker JE and Thompson JE (1986) Ethylene binding to senescing carnation petals. J Exp Bot 37: 526–534Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Chang C, Kwok SF, Bleecker AB and Meyerowitz EM (1993) Arabidopsis ethylene-response gene ETRI: similarity of product to two-component regulators. Science 262: 539–544Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Cook EL and Van Staden J (1988) The carnation as a model for hormonal studies in flower senescence. Plant Physiol Biochem 26: 793–807Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Deikman J and Fischer RL (1988) Interaction of a DNA binding factor with the 5′-flanking region of an ethylene-responsive fruit ripening gene from tomato. EMBO J 7: 3315–3320Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Deikman J, Kline R and Fischer RL (1992) Organization of ripening and ethylene regulatory regions in a fruit-specific promoter from tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Plant Physiol 100: 2013–2017Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Drory A, Mayak S and Woodson WR (1993) Expression of ethylene biosynthetic pathway mRNAs is spatially regulated within carnation flower petals. J. Plant Phys 141: 663–667Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hall MA, Aho HM, Berry AW, Cowan DS, Harpham NVJ, Holland MG, Moshkov IY, Novikova G and Smith AR (1993) Ethylene receptors. In: Pech JC, Latché A and Balagué C (eds) Cellular and molecular aspects of the plant hormone ethylene, pp 168–173. Kluwer Academic PublishersGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hamilton AJ, Lycett GW and Grierson D (1990) Antisense gene that inhibits synthesis of the hormone ethylene in transgenic plants. Nature 346: 284–287Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Harkema H, Woltering EJ and Beekhuizen JG (1987) The role of amino-oxyacetic acid, Triton X-100 and kinetin as components of a pretreatment solution for carnations. Acta Hortic 216: 263–280Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Henskens H, Somhorst D and Woltering EJ (1993) Expression of two ACC synthase mRNAs in carnation flower parts during aging and following treatment with ethylene. In: Pech JC, Latché A and Balagué C (eds) Cellular and molecular aspects of the plant hormone ethylene, pp 323–324. Kluwer Academic PublishersGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Holdsworth MJ, Bird CR, Ray J, Schuch W and Grierson D (1987) Structure and expression of an ethylene-related mRNA from tomato. Nucl Acid Res 15: 731–739Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Holdsworth MJ, Schuch W and Grierson D (1988) Organisation and expression of a wound/ripening-related small multi-gene family from tomato. Plant Mol Biol 11: 81–88Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Hsieh YC and Sacalis J (1987) Levels of ACC in various floral portions during aging of cut carnations. J Amer Soc Hort Sci 111: 942–944Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Imaseki H (1991) The biochemistry of ethylene biosynthesis. In: Mattoo AK and Suttle JC (eds) The plant hormone ethylene, pp 1–20. CRC PressGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Itzhaki H and Woodson WR (1993) Characterization of an Ethylene-Responsive Glutathione S-Transferase Gene Cluster in Carnation. Plant Mol Biol 22: 43–58Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kende H (1993) Ethylene Biosynthesis. Ann Rev Plant Physiol 44: 283–307Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kende H and Boller T (1981) Wound ethylene and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase in ripening fruit tomato. Planta 151: 476–481Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Kieber JJ and Ecker JR (1993) Ethylene gas: it's not just for ripening any more! Trends in Genetics 9: 356–362Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Kieber JJ, Rothenberg M, Roman G, Feldmann KA and Ecker JR (1993) CTR1, a negative regulator of the ethylene response pathway in Arabidopsis, encodes a member of the Raf family of protein kinases. Cell 72: 427–441Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Kionka C and Amhrein N (1984) The enzymatic malonylation of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid in homogenates of mung-bean hypocotyls. Planta 162: 226–235Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kirchner J, Schmidt O, Jung J and Rademacher W (1993) Effects of novel oxime ether derivates of aminooxyacetic acid on ethylene formation in leaves of oilseed rape and barley and on carnation senescence. Plant Growth Regul 13: 41–46Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Klee HJ, Hayford MB, Kretzmer KA, Barry GF and Kishore GM (1991) Control of ethylene synthesis by expression of a bacterial enzyme in transgenic tomato plants. Plant Cell 3: 1187–1193Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Köck M, Hamilton A and Grierson D (1991) Ethl, a gene involved in ethylene synthesis in tomato. Plant Mol Biol 17: 141–142Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Kooter JM and Mol JNM (1993) Trans-inactivation of gene expression in plants. Curr Opinion in Biotechn 4: 166–171Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Lawton KA, Huang B, Goldsbrough PB and Woodson WR (1989) Molecular cloning and characterization of senescence-related genes from carnation flower petals. Plant Physiol 90: 690–696Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Lawton KA, Raghothama KG, Goldsbrough PB and Woodson WR (1990) Regulation of senescence-related gene expression in carnation flower petals by ethylene. Plant Physiol 93: 1370–1375Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Lincoln JE and Fischer RL (1988) Diverse mechanisms for the regulation of ethylene-inducible gene expression. Mol Gen Genet 212: 71–75Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Lu CY, Nugent G, Wardley-Richardson T, Chandler SF, Young R and Dalling MJ (1991) Agrobacterium mediated transformation of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.). Bio/technology 9: 864–868Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Manning K (1986) Ethylene production and β-cyanoalanine-synthase activity in carnation flowers. Planta 168: 61–66Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Mayak S and Tirosh T (1993) Unusual ethylene-related behaviour in senescing flowers of the carnation Sandrosa. Physiol Plant 88: 420–426Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Maxie EC, Farnham DS, Mitchell FG, Sommer NF, Parsons RA, Snyder RG and Rae HL (1973) Temperature and eththylene effects on cut flowers of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.). J Am Soc Hort Sci 98 (6) 568–572Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    McGarvey DJ and Christoffersen RE (1992) Characterization and kinetic parameters of ethylene-forming enzyme from Avocado fruit. J Biol Chem 267: 5964–5967Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Meyer RCJr., Goldsbrough PB and Woodson WR (1991) An ethylene-responsive flower senescence-related gene from carnation encodes a protein homologous to glutathione stransferases. Plant Mol Biol 17: 277–281Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Michael MZ, Savin KW, Baudinette SC, Graham MW, Chandler SF, Lu C-Y, Caeser I, Gautrais I, Young R, Nugent GD, Stevenson KR, O'Connor ELJ, Cobbett CS and Cornish EC (1993) Cloning of ethylene biosynthetic genes involved in petal senescence of carnation and petunia, and their antisense expression in transgenic plants. In: Pech JC, Latché A and Balagué C (eds) Cellular and molecular aspects of the plant hormone ethylene, pp 298–303. Kluwer Academic PublishersGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Montgomery J, Goldman S, Deikman J, Margossian L and Fischer RL (1993) Identification of an ethylene-responsive region in the promoter of a fruit ripening gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90: 5939–5943Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Mor Y, Reid MS and Kofranek (1980) Role of the ovary in carnation senescence. Scientia Hortic 13: 377–383Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Mor Y, Spiegelstein H and Halevy AH (1983) Inhibition of ethylene biosynthesis in carnation petals by cytokinin. Plant Physiol 71: 541–546Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Nakajima N, Mori H, Yamazaki K and Imaseki H (1990) Molecular cloning and sequence of a complementary DNA encoding 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase induced by tissue wounding. Plant Cell Physiol 31: 1021–1029Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Nichols R (1966) Ethylene production during senescence of flowers. J Hort Sci 41: 279–290Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Nichols R (1971) Induction of flower senescence and gynoecium development in carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) by ethylene and 2-chloroethylephosphonic acid. J Hort Sci 46: 323–332Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Nichols R (1977) Sites of ethylene production in the pollinated and unpollinated senescing carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) inflorescence. Planta 135: 155–159Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Nichols R, Bufler G, Mor Y, Fujino DW and Reid MS (1983) Changes in ethylene production and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid content of pollinated carnation flowers. J Plant Growth Regul 3: 189–196Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Oeller PW, Lu MW, Taylor LP, Pike DA and Theologis A (1991) Reversible inhibition of tomato fruit senescence by antisense RNA. Science 254: 437–439Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Overbeek J and Woltering EJ (1990) Synergistic effect of 1 aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid and ethylene during senescence of isolated carnation petals. Physiol Plant 79: 368–367Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Park KY, Drory A and Woodson WR (1992) Molecular cloning of an 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase from senescing carnation flower petals. Plant Mol Biol 18: 377–386Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Peiser G (1986) Levels of ACC synthase activity, ACC and ACC-conjugate in cut carnation flowers during senescence. Acta Hortic 181: 99–104Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Penarrubia L, Aguilar M, Margossian L and Fischer RL (1992) An antisense gene stimulates ethylene hormone production during tomato fruit ripening. Plant Cell 4: 681–687Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Picton S, Barton SL, Bouzayen M, Hamilton AJ and Grierson D (1993) Altered fruit ripening and leaf senescence in tomatoes expressing an antisense ethylene-forming enzyme transgene. Plant J 3: 469–481Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Raz V and Fluhr R (1992) Calcium requirement for ethylene-dependent responses. Plant Cell 4: 1123–1130Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Raz V and Fluhr R (1993) Ethylene Signal Is Transduced via Protein Phosphorylation Events in Plants. Plant Cell 5: 523–530Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Reid MS (1987) Ethylene in plant growth, development, and senescence. In Davies PJ (ed) Plant hormones and their role in plant growth and development, pp 257–279. Den Hague: Martinuss NijhoffGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Reid MS and Wu MJ (1992) Ethylene and flower senescence. Plant Growth Regul 11: 37–43Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Rottmann WH, Peter GF, Oeller PW, Keller JA, Shen NF, Nagy BP, Taylor LP, Campbell AD and Theologis A (1991) 1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase in tomato is encoded by a multigene family whose transcription is induced during fruit and floral senescence. J Mol Biol 222: 937–961Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Saks Y and Van Staden J (1992a) Effect of gibberellic acid on carnation flower senescence: evidence that the delay of carnation flower senescence by gibberellic acid depends on the stage of flower development. Plant Growth Regul 11: 45–51Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Saks Y and Van Staden J (1992b) The role of gibberellic acid in the senescence of carnation flowers. J Plant Physiol 139: 484–488Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Saks Y and Van Staden J (1993a) Effect of gibberellic-acid on ACC content, EFE activity and ethylene release by floral parts of the senescing carnation flower. Plant Growth Regul 12: 99–104Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Saks Y and Van Staden J (1993b) Evidence for the involvement of gibberellins in developmental phenomena associated with carnation flower senescence. Plant Growth Regul 12: 105–110Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Satoh S and Esashi Y (1983) α-Aminoisobutyric acid, propyl gallate and cobalt ion and the mode of inhibition of ethylene production by cotyledonary segments of cocklebur seeds. Physiol Plant 57: 521–526Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Serrano M, Romojaro F, Casas JL and Acosta M (1991) Ethylene and polyamine metabolism in climacteric and nonclimacteric carnation flowers. HortScience 26: 894–896Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Sisler EC (1991) Ethylene-binding components in plants. In: Mattoo AK and Suttle JC (eds) The plant hormone ethylene, pp 81–99. CRC PressGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Sisler EC, Blankenship SM, Fearn JC and Haynes R (1993) Effects of diazocyclopentadiene (DACP) on cut carnations. In: Pech JC, Latché A and Balagué C (eds) Cellular and molecular aspects of the plant hormone ethylene, pp 182–187. Kluwer Academic PublishersGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Stead AD (1992) Pollination-induced flower senescence: a review. Plant Growth Regul 11: 13–20Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Toshima H, Niwayama Y, Nagata H, Greulich F and Ichihara A (1993) Inhibitory effect of coronamic acid derivates on senescence in cut carnation flowers. Biosci Biotech Biochem 57: 1394–1395Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Van Altvorst AC, Koehorst HJJ, Bruinsma T, Jansen J, Custers JBM, De Jong J and Dons JJM (1992) Adventitious shoot formation from in vitro leaf explants of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.). Scientia Hortic 51: 223–235Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Van Altvorst AC (1994) Shoot regeneration and Agrobacterium-mediatedtransformation of carnation. Catholic University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. PhD thesis.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Van Doorn WG and Woltering EJ (1991) Developments in the use of growth regulators for the maintenance of post-harvest quality in cut flowers and potted plants. Acta Hortic 298: 195–208Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Van der Straeten D and Van Montagu M (1991) The molecular basis of ethylene biosynthesis, mode of action, and effects in higher plants. In: Biswas BB and Harris JR (eds) Subcellular Biochemistry 17: Plant Genetic Engineering, pp 279–326. New York: Plenum PressGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Van Staden J, Featonby-Smith BC, Mayak S, Spiegelstein H and Halevy AH (1987) Cytokinins in cut carnation flowers. II. Relationship between endogenous ethylene and cytokinin levels in the petals. Plant Growth Regul 5: 75–86Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Veen H (1986) A theoretical model for anti-ethylene effects of silver thiosulphate and 2,5-norbornadiene. Acta Hortic 181: 129–134Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Ververidis P and John P (1991) Complete recovery in vitro of ethylene-forming enzyme activity. Phytochem 30: 725–727Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Wang H and Woodson WR (1989) Reversible inhibition of ethylene action and interruption of carnation petal senescence by norbornadiene. Plant Physiol 89: 434–438Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Wang H and Woodson WR (1991) A flower senescence-related mRNA from carnation shares sequence similarity with fruit ripening-related mRNAs involved in ethylene biosynthesis. Plant Physiol 96: 1000–1001Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Wang H, Brandt AS and Woodson WR (1993) A flower senescence-related mRNA from carnation encodes a novel protein related to enzymes involved in phophonate biosynthesis. Plant Molec Biol 72: 719–724Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Whitehead CS and Vasiljevic D (1993) Role of short-chain saturated fatty acids in the control of ethylene sensitivity in senescing carnation flowers. Phys Plant 88: 243–250Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Woltering EJ and Van Doorn WG (1988) Role of ethylene in senescence of petals. Morhological and taxinomical relationships. J Exp Bot 39: 1605–1616Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Woltering EJ, Overbeek H and Harren F (1991) Ethylene and ACC: mobile wilting factors in flowers. Acta Hortic 298: 47–59Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    Woltering EJ, Van Hout M, Somhorst D and Harren F (1993a) Roles of pollination and short-chain saturated fatty-acids in flower senescence. Plant Growth Regul 12: 1–10Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    Woltering EJ, Somhorst D and De Beer CA (1993b) Roles of Ethylene Production and Sensitivity in Senescence of Carnation Flower (Dianthus caryophyllus) Cultivars White Sim, Chinera and Epomeo. J Plant Physiol 141: 329–335Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Woodson WR (1987) Changes in protein and mRNA populations during the senescence of carnation petals. Physiol Plant 71: 495–502Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    Woodson WR and Lawton KA (1988) Ethylene-induced gene expression in carnation petals. Relationship to autocatalytic ethylene production and senescence. Plant Physiol 87: 498–503Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    Woodson WR (1991) Gene expression and flower senescence. In: Harding J, Sing F and Mol JNM (eds) Genetics and breeding in ornamental species, pp 317–331. Kluwer Acad PublishersGoogle Scholar
  92. 92.
    Woodson WR and Brandt AS (1991) Role of the gynoecium in cytokinin-induced carnation petal senescence. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 116: 676–679Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Woodson WR, Park KY, Drory A, Larsen PB and Wang H (1992) Expression of ethylene biosynthetic pathway transcripts in senescing carnation flowers. Plant Physiol 99: 526–532Google Scholar
  94. 94.
    Wu MJ, Van Doom WG and Reid MS (1991a) Variation in the senescence of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.) cultivars. I. Comparison of flower life, respiration and ethylene biosynthesis. Scientia Hortic 48: 99–107Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    Wu MJ, Zacarias L and Reid MS (1991b) Variation in the senescence of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.) cultivars. II. Comparison of sensitivity to exogenous ethylene and of ethylene binding. Scientia Hortic 48: 109–116Google Scholar
  96. 96.
    Wu MJ, Zacarias L, Saltveit ME and Reid MS (1992) Alcohols and carnation senescence. HortScience 2: 136–138Google Scholar
  97. 97.
    Wulster G, Sacalis J and Janes HW (1982) Senescence in isolated carnation petals. Effects of indoleacetic acid and inhibitors of protein synthesis. Plant Physiol 70: 1039–1043Google Scholar
  98. 98.
    Yang SF and Hoffman NE (1984) Ethylene biosynthesis and its regulation in higher plants. Annu Rev Plant Physiol 35: 155–189Google Scholar
  99. 99.
    Yang SF and Dong JG (1993) Recent Progress in Research of Ethylene Biosynthesis. Bot Bull Acad Sinica 34: 89–101Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. Van Altvorst
    • 1
  • A. G. Bovy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Developmental BiologyCentre for Plant Breeding and Reproduction Research (CPRO-DLO)WageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations