Journal of Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 1050–1065 | Cite as

Ethylene and Polyamines in Counteracting Heavy Metal Phytotoxicity: A Crosstalk Perspective

  • Mohd Asgher
  • M. Iqbal R. KhanEmail author
  • Naser A. Anjum
  • Susheel Verma
  • Dhiraj Vyas
  • Tasir S. Per
  • Asim Masood
  • Nafees A. KhanEmail author


The increasing trend of addition of heavy metals (HMs) to agricultural lands has increased toxicities in plants leading to significant declines in crop productivity. HM toxicity includes alterations in physiological processes, metabolic activities and overall growth and development of plants. The stimulation of oxidative stress is among the common concerns of toxicity in plants at the cellular level. Plant growth hormones/growth regulators have been key signalling molecules in delivering responses to HMs. The important phytohormones, ethylene and polyamines (PAs), play significant roles in the regulation of various developmental processes and signalling networks in plants. Notably, ethylene and PAs are also involved directly or indirectly in a widespread range of abiotic stress responses and tolerance/adaptation. As ethylene and PA biosynthesis involves a common precursor, S-adenosylmethionine, the interplay between ethylene and PAs is suggested in responses of plants to HM stress. The present work emphasizes the roles of these two phytohormones in signalling and regulation of HMs stress in plants based on the recent available reports. This work (a) overviews biosynthesis and signalling of ethylene and PAs; (b) critically appraises the functions of ethylene and PA, and the role of their promoters in HM-exposed plants; and (c) discusses crosstalk on the major mechanisms potentially governing ethylene and PA for plant HM-tolerance/adaptation. HMs in the appraised herein literature exhibited a differential modulation of PAs and ethylene biosynthetic pathways. In particular, the synergism between the PA and ethylene biosynthesis components could be helpful for plants in improving the ratio of root to shoot, increasing water (nutrients) uptake, modulating major signalling compounds, and thereby maintaining optimum cellular metabolism under HM stress.


Ethylene Heavy metals Phytohormones Polyamines Stress tolerance 



MA is thankful to SERB (PDF/2016/000591), New Delhi, India in the form of National Post-doctoral Fellowship (N-PDF). The research facility in the laboratory of NAK is available under the DBT-BUILDER programme (No. BT/PR4872/INF/22/150/2012) of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, New Delhi.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conservation and Molecular Biology Lab, Department of Botany, School of Biosciences and BiotechnologyBaba Ghulam Shah Badshah UniversityRajouriIndia
  2. 2.Systems Physiology, Strategic Innovation PlatformInternational Rice Research InstituteMetro ManilaPhilippines
  3. 3.Plant Physiology and Biochemistry Laboratory, Department of BotanyAligarh Muslim UniversityAligarhIndia
  4. 4.Biodiversity and Applied Botany DivisionIndian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR)JammuIndia
  5. 5.Department of BotanyGovt. Degree College DodaDodaIndia

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