Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 291–299 | Cite as

Role of polyamines and ethylene as modulators of plant senescence

  • S. Pandey
  • S A Ranade
  • P K Nagar
  • Nikhil KumarEmail author


Under optimal conditions of growth, senescence, a terminal phase of development, sets in after a certain physiological age. It is a dynamic and closely regulated developmental process which involves an array of changes at both physiological and biochemical levels including gene expression. A large number of biotic and abiotic factors accelerate the process. Convincing evidence suggests the involvement of polyamines (PAs) and ethylene in this process. Although the biosynthetic pathways of both PAs and ethylene are interrelated, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) being a common precursor, their physiological functions are distinct and at times antagonistic, particularly during leaf and flower senescence and also during fruit ripening. This provides an effective means for regulation of their biosynthesis and also to understand the mechanism by which the balance between the two can be established for manipulating the senescence process. The present article deals with current advances in the knowledge of the interrelationship between ethylene and PAs during senescence which may open up new vistas of investigation for the future.


Ethylene fruit ripening polyamine senescence 

Abbreviations used




polyamine oxidase


perchloric acid








ornithine decarboxylase




S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase


1-amino-cyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid


ethylene forming enzyme


aminooxyacetic acid


aminoethoxyvinyl glycine




arginine decarboxylase


DL-difluoromethyl arginine


DL-difluoromethyl ornithine


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abeles F B, Morgan P W and Saltveit M E Jr (eds) 1992Ethylene in plant biology (New York: Academic Press)Google Scholar
  2. Aharoni N 1989 Interrelationship between ethylene and plant growth regulator in the senescence of lettuce leaf discs;J. Plant Growth Regul. 8 307–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Apelbaum A, Burgoon A C, Anderson J D and Lieberman M 1981 Polyamines inhibit biosynthesis of ethylene in higher plant tissue and fruit protoplasts;Plant Physiol. 68 239–247Google Scholar
  4. Ayub R, Guis M, Ben Amor M, Gillot L, Roustan J P, Latche A, Bouzayen M and Pech J C 1996 Expression of ACC oxidase antisense gene inhibits ripening of cantaloupe melon fruits;Nature Biotechnol. 14 862–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolitho K M, Lay-Yee M, Knighton M L and Rose G S 1997 Antisense apple ACC-oxidase RNA reduces ethylene production in transgenic tomato fruits;Plant Sci. 122 91–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borochov A and Woodson W R 1989 Physiology and biochemistry of flower petal senescence;Hortic. Rev. 11 15–43Google Scholar
  7. Borochov A, Spiegelstein H and Philosoph-Hadas S 1997 Ethylene and flower petal senescence: Interrelationship with membrane lipid catabolism;Physiol. Plant. 100 606–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Botha M L and Whitehead C S 1992 The effect of polyamines on ethylene synthesis during normal and pollination-induced senescence ofPetunia hybrida L. flower;Planta 188 478–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buchanan-Wollaston V 1994 Isolation of cDNA clones for genes that are expressed during leaf senescence inBrassica napus. Identification of a gene encoding a senescence-specific metallothionein-like protein;Plant Physiol. 105 839–846PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buchanan-Wollaston V 1997 The molecular biology of leaf senescence;J. Exp. Bot. 48 181–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burtin D, Martin-Tanguy J and Topfer D 1991 α-DL-difluoromethyl-ornithine, a specific, irreversible inhibitor of putrescine biosynthesis induces a phenotype in tobacco similar to that ascribed to the root inducing left hand transferred DNA ofAgrobacterium rhizogenes;Plant Physiol. 95 461–468PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Celikel F G and van Doorn W G 1995 Solute leakage, lipid peroxidation and protein degradation during the senescence of Iris petals;Physiol. Plant 94 515–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chae Y, Lee Y and Son K C 1995 Changes in ethylene production, polyamine levels and activities of SAM decarboxylase, ACC synthase and EFE during flower senescence ofHibiscus syriacus L. cv. Yeonggwang;J. Korean Soc. Hortic. Sci. 36 113–120Google Scholar
  14. Chang K S, Nam K H, Lee M M, Lee S H and Park K Y 1996 Nucleotide sequence of cDNA (Accession no. U 63832) encoding arginine decarboxylase from carnation flowers;Plant Physiol. 112 863Google Scholar
  15. Chattopadhyay M K, Gupta S, Sengupta D N and Ghosh B 1997 Expression of arginine decarboxylase in seedlings of indica rice (Oryza sativa L.) cultivars as affected by salinity stress;Plant Mol. Biol. 34 477–483PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Crisosto C H, Lombard P B, Richardson D G and Tetley R 1992 Putrescine extends effective pollination period in ‘Comice’ pear (Pyrus communis L.).Sci. Hortic. 49 211–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dilley D R 1977 The hypobaric concept for controlled atmospheric storage;Mich. State Hortic. Rep. 28 2937Google Scholar
  18. D'Orazi D and Bagni N 1987 In vitro interactions between PAs and pectic substances;Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 148 1159–1163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Downs C G and Lovell P H 1986 The effect of spermidine and putresine on the senescence of cut carnations;Plant Physiol. 66 679–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Drake R, John I, Farrol A, Cooper W, Schuch W and Grierson D 1996 Isolation and analysis of cDNAs encoding tomato cysteine proteases expressed during leaf senescence;Plant Mol. Biol. 30 755–767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Escribano M I, Aguado P, Reguera R M and Merodio C1 1996 Conjugated polyamine levels and putrescine synthesis in cherimoya fruit during storage at different temperatures;J. Plant Physiol. 147 736–742Google Scholar
  22. Escribano M I and Merodio C 1994 The relevance of polyamine levels in cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.) fruit ripening;J. Plant Physiol. 143 207–212Google Scholar
  23. Espartero J, Pintor-Toro J A and Pardo J M 1994 Differential accumulation of S-adenosyl methionine synthetase transcripts in response to salt stress;Plant Mol. Biol. 25 217–227PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Evans P T and Malmberg R L 1989 Do polyamines have role in plant development?;Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. Plant Mol. Biol. 40 235–269Google Scholar
  25. Galston A W 1983 Polyamines as modulators of plant development;BioScience 33 382–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Galston A W and Kaur-Sawhney R 1987 Polyamines as endogenous growth regulators; inPlant hormones and their role in plant growth and development (ed.) P J Davies (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff) pp 280–295Google Scholar
  27. Galston A W and Kaur-Sawhney R 1995 Polyamines as endogenous growth regulators; inPlant hormones: Physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology (ed.) P J Davies 2nd edition (Dordrecht: Kluwer Acad. Press) pp 158–178Google Scholar
  28. Gan S and Amasino R M 1995 Inhibition of leaf senescence by autoregulated production of cytokinin;Science 270 1986–1988PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gan S and Amasino R M 1997 Making sense of senescence. Molecular genetic regulation and manipulation of leaf senescence;Plant Physiol. 113 313–319PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Gray J E, Picton S, Fray R, Hamilton A J, Smith H, Barton S, Grierson D, Peach J C, Latche A and Balague- C 1993 Cellular and molecular aspects of the plant hormone ethylene;Proc. Int. Symp., Agen, France, pp 82–89Google Scholar
  31. Grbic V and Bleecker A B 1995 Ethylene regulates the timing of leaf senescence inArabidopsis;Plant J. 8 595–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hamana K and Matsuzaki S 1982 Widespread occurrence of norspermidine and norspermine in eukaryotic algae;J. Biochem. 91 1321–1324PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Hamana K and Matsuzaki S 1985 Distribution of polyamines in prokaryotes, algae, plants and fungi; inPolyamines: Basic and clinical aspects (eds) K Imahori, F Suzuki, O Suzuki and U Bacharach (VNU Sci. Press) pp 105–112Google Scholar
  34. Hamilton A J, Lycett G W and Grierson D 1990 Antisense gene that inhibits synthesis of the hormone ethylene in transgenic plants;Nature (London) 346 284–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Han Frey C, Fife M and Buchanan-Wollaston V 1996 Leaf senescence inBrassica napus: expression of genes encoding pathogenesis related proteins;Plant Mol. Biol. 30 597–609Google Scholar
  36. Havelange A, Lejeune P, Bernier P, Kaur-Sawhney R, Galston A W 1996 Putrescine export from leaves in relation to floral transition inSinapis alba;Physiol. Plant 96 59–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heby O and Persson L 1990 Molecular genetics of polyamine synthesis in eukaryotic cells;Trends Biochem. Sci. 15 153–158PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hensel L, Grbic V, Baumgartner D and Blecker A B 1993 Developmental and age related processes that influence the longivity and senescence of photosynthetic tissues inArabidopsis;Plant Cell 5 553–564PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hobson G E, Nichol S R, Davies J N and Atkey P T 1984 The inhibition of tomato fruit ripening by silver;J. Plant Physiol. 116 21–29Google Scholar
  40. Hong S J and Lee S K 1996 Changes in endogenous putrescine and the relationship to the ripening of tomato fruits;J. Korean Soc. Hortic. Sci. 37 369–373Google Scholar
  41. Horton R F and Bourguoin N 1992 Leaf senescence in juvenile ivy;Plant Physiol. Biochem. 30 119–122Google Scholar
  42. Humbeck K, Quast S and Krupinska K 1996 Functional and molecular changes in the photosynthetic apparatus during senescence of flag leaves from field-grown barley plants;Plant Cell Environ. 19 337–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. John I, Drake R, Farrel A, Cooper W, Lee P, Horton P and Grierson D 1995 Delayed leaf senescence in ethylene deficient ACC-oxidase antisense tomato plants: Molecular and physiological analysis;Plant J. 7 483–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jones M L and Woodson W R 1999 Differential expression of three members of the 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase gene family in carnation;Plant Physiol. 119 755–764PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kakkar R K and Rai V K 1993 Plant polyamines in flowering and fruit ripening;Phytochemistry 33 1281–1288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kakkar R K, Rai V K and Nagar P K 1998 Polyamine uptake and translocation in plants;Biol. Plant. 40 481–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Katoh Y, Hasegawa T, Suzuki T and Fujii T 1987 Effect of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid production on the changes in the ployamine levels in Hiproly barley callus after auxin withdrawal;Agric. Biol. Chem. 51 2457–2463Google Scholar
  48. Kaur-Sawhney R and Galston A W 1991 Physiological and biochemical studies on antisenescence properties of polyamines in plants; inBiochemistry and physiology of polyamines in plants (eds) R D Slocum and H E Florse (Boca Raton: CRC Press) pp 201–211Google Scholar
  49. Kumar A, Altabella T, Taylor M A and Tiburcio A F 1997 Recent advances in polyamine research;Trends Plant Sci. 2 124–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lee M M, Lee S H and Park K Y 1997 Effects of spermine on ethylene biosynthesis in cut carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.) flowers during senescence;J. Plant Physiol. 151 68–73Google Scholar
  51. Lelievre J M, Latche A, Jones B, Bouzayen M and Pech J C 1997 Ethylene and fruit ripening;Physiol. Plant 101 727–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Li N, Parsons B L, Liu D and Mattoo A K 1992 Accumulation of wound inducible ACC synthase transcripts in tomato fruit is inhibited by salicylic acid and polyamines;Plant Mol. Biol. 18 477–487PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. MadArif S A, Taylor M A, George L A, Butler A R, Burch L R, Davies H V, Stark M J R and Kumar A 1994 Characterization of S-adenosyl methionine decarboxylase (SAMDC) gene of potato;Plant Mol. Biol. 26 327–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Martin-Tanguy J 1985 The occurrence and possible function of hydroxycinnamoyl acid amides in plants;Plant Growth Regul. 3 381–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Martin-Tanguy J 1997 Conjugated polyamines and reproductive development: Biochemical, molecular and physiological approaches;Physiol. Plant. 100 675–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Messiaen J, Cambier P and Cutsem P V 1997 Polyamines and pectins. 1. Ion exchange and selectivity;Plant Physiol. 113 387–395PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Michael A J, Furze J M, Rhodes M J C and Burtin D 1996 Molecular cloning and functional identification of a plant ornithine decarboxylase cDNA;Biochem. J. 314 241–248Google Scholar
  58. Mizrahi Y, Applewhite P B and Galston A W 1989 Polyamine binding to proteins in oat and petunia protoplasts;Plant Physiol. 91 738–743PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Nam H G 1997 The molecular genetic analysis of leaf senescence;Curr. Opin. Res. Commun. 199 525–530Google Scholar
  60. Nichols R, Bufler G, Mor Y, Fujino D W and Reid M S 1983 Changes in ethylene production and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid content of pollinated Carnation flowers;J. Plant Growth Regul. 2 1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nichols R and Frost C E 1985 Wound induced production of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid and accelerated senescence ofPetunia corollas;Sci. Hortic. 26 47–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nooden L D 1988 Whole plant senescence; inSenescence induced aging in plants (eds) L D Nooden and A C Leopold (New York: Academic Press) pp 391–439Google Scholar
  63. Oeller P W, Wong L M, Taylor L P, Pilce D A and Theologis A 1991 Reversible inhibition of tomato fruit senescence by antisense RNA;Science 254 437–439PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Paliyath G and Droillard M J 1992 The mechanism of membrane deterioration and disassembly during senescence;Plant Physiol. Biochem. 30 789–812Google Scholar
  65. Pennazio S and Roggero P 1990 Exogenous polyamines stimulate ethylene synthesis by soybean leaf tissue;Ann. Bot. 65 45–50Google Scholar
  66. Perez-Amador M A, Carbonell J and Granell A 1995 Expression of arginine decarboxylase is induced during early fruit development and in young tissues ofPisum sativum (L.);Plant Mol. Biol. 28 997–1009PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Philosoph-Hadas S, Meir S and Aharoni N 1991 Effect of wounding on ethylene biosynthesis and senescence of detached spinach leaves;Physiol. Plant 83 241–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Reid M S and Wu M J 1992 Ethylene and flower senescence;J. Plant Growth Regul. 11 37–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Roberts D R, Dumbroff E B and Thompson J E 1986 Exogenous polyamines alter membrane fluidity in bean leaves a basis for potential misinterpretation of their physiological role;Planta 167 395–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Roberts D R, Walker M A, Thompson J E and Dumbroff E B 1984 The effect of inhibitors of polyamine and ethylene biosynthesis on senescence, ethylene production and polyamine levels in cut carnation flowers;Plant Cell Physiol. 25 315–322Google Scholar
  71. Rodriguez-Garay B, Phillips G C and Kuehn G D 1989 Detection of norspermidine and norspermine inMedicago sativa L. (alfalfa);Plant Physiol. 89 525–529PubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Saftner R A and Baldi B G 1990 Polyamine levels and tomato fruit development: Possible interaction with ethylene;Plant Physiol. 92 547–550PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Serrano M, Martinez-Madrid M C and Romojaro F 1999 Ethylene biosynthesis and polyamine and ABA levels in cut carnations treated with aminotriazole;J. Am. Soc. Hortic. Sci. 124 81–85Google Scholar
  74. Serrano M, Romojaro F, Casas J L and Acosta M 1991 Ethylene and polyamine metabolism in climacteric and non-climacteric carnation flowers;HortScience 26 894–896Google Scholar
  75. Sisler E C and Serek M 1997 Inhibitors of ethylene responses in plants at the receptor level: Recent developments;Physiol. Plant. 100 577–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Slocum R D, Kaur-Sawhney R and Galston A W 1984 The Physiology and biochemistry of Polyamines in Plants;Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 235 283–303PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Smart C M 1994 Gene expression during leaf senescence;New Phytol. 126 419–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Smart C M, Hosken S E, Thomas H, Greaves J A, Blair B G and Schuch W 1995 The timing of maize leaf senescence and characterization of senescence related cDNAs;Physiol. Plant. 93 673–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Smart C M, Scofield S R, Bevan M W and Dyer T A 1991 Delayed leaf senescence in tobacco plants transformed with tmr, a gene for cytokinin production inAgrobacterium;Plant Cell 3 647–656PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Smith T A 1985a Polyamines;Annu Rev. Plant Physiol. 36 117–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Smith T A 1985b The inhibition and activation of polyamine oxidase from oat seedlings;J. Plant Growth Regul. 3 269–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Tabor C W and Tabor H 1984 Polyamines;Annu. Rev. Biochem. 53 749–790PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Tait G H 1985 Bacterial polyamines, structure and biosynthesis;Biochem. Soc. Trans. 13 316–318PubMedGoogle Scholar
  84. Theologis A 1992 One rotten apple spoils the whole bushel: The role of ethylene in fruit ripening;Cell 70 181–184PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Walden R, Cordeiro A and Tiburcio A F 1997 Polyamines: Small molecules triggering pathways in plant growth and development;Plant Physiol. 113 1009–1013PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Watson M B and Malmberg R L 1996 Regulation ofArabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. arginine decarboxylase by potassium deficience stress;Plant Physiol. 111 1077–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Yang S F and Hoffman N E 1984 Ethylene biosynthesis and its regulation in higher plants;Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. 35 155–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Yu Y B, Adams D O and Yang S F 1979 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase a key enzyme in ethylene biosynthesis;Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 198 280–286PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Zarembinski T I and Theologis A 1994 Ethylene biosynthesis and action: A case for conservation;Plant Mol. Biol. 26 1579–1597PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Pandey
    • 1
  • S A Ranade
    • 1
    • 2
  • P K Nagar
    • 1
  • Nikhil Kumar
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Plant Biotechnology DivisionInstitute of Himalayan Bioresource TechnologyPalampurIndia
  2. 2.Plant Molecular Biology DivisionNational Botanical Research InstituteLucknowIndia
  3. 3.Betelvine LaboratoryNational Botanical Research InstituteLucknowIndia

Personalised recommendations