Plant and Soil

, Volume 185, Issue 1, pp 33–49

Is coordination of leaf and root growth mediated by abscisic acid? Opinion

  • Rana Munns
  • G. R. Cramer
Opinion Articles

DOI: 10.1007/BF02257563

Cite this article as:
Munns, R. & Cramer, G.R. Plant Soil (1996) 185: 33. doi:10.1007/BF02257563


Leaf growth is more inhibited than root growth when the soil is nitrogen-deficient, dry, saline, compacted, or of restricted volume. Similar differential responses in leaf and root growth occur when ABA is applied to plants in well-watered and well-fertilised conditions, and opposite responses are often found in ABA-deficient mutants. ABA levels increase in plants in dry or saline soils, suggesting a regulating role in leaf and root growth in soils of low water potential. In nitrogen-deficient or compacted soils, or soils of restricted volume, ABA only sometimes increases, and in these situations its accumulation may be of secondary importance. Use of ABA-deficient mutants has so far indicated that ABA influences leaf and root growth in unstressed plants, and plants in dry soils, but not in soils that are compacted, of restricted volume, or are nitrogen-deficient.

For ABA to determine the relationship between the rate of leaf growth and the rate of root growth, there must be long-distance transport of either ABA itself or a compound that controls ABA synthesis in the growing cells of leaves and roots. ABA invariably increases in xylem sap as the soil becomes dry or saline, and sometimes when it becomes nitrogen-deficient or compacted, however the ABA is of too low a concentration to affect leaf growth. There may be a compound in xylem sap that controls the synthesis of ABA in the leaf, but no such compound has been identified. ABA accumulates in phloem sap of plants in dry or saline soil, but its function in controlling root or leaf growth is unknown.

We conclude that ABA affects the ratio of root growth to leaf growth via its independent effects on root and leaf growth, and may regulate the ratio of root to leaf growth via feedforward signals in xylem or phloem, but there is no satisfactory explanation of its mechanism of control.

Key words

abscisic acid drought leaf expansion nitrogen deficiency root growth salinity soil compaction 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rana Munns
    • 1
    • 3
  • G. R. Cramer
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.CSIRO Division of Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  3. 3.Cooperative Research Centre for Plant ScienceCanberraAustralia

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