, Volume 249, Issue 3, pp 469–481 | Cite as

Leaf senescence and abiotic stresses share reactive oxygen species-mediated chloroplast degradation

  • Renu Khanna-ChopraEmail author
Review Article


Leaf senescence is a genetically programmed decline in various cellular processes including photosynthesis and involves the hydrolysis of macromolecules such as proteins, lipids, etc. It is governed by the developmental age and is induced or enhanced by environmental stresses such as drought, heat, salinity and others. Internal factors such as reproductive structures also influence the rate of leaf senescence. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation is one of the earliest responses of plant cells under abiotic stresses and senescence. Chloroplasts are the main targets of ROS-linked damage during various environmental stresses and natural senescence as ROS detoxification systems decline with age. Plants adapt to environmental stresses through the process of acclimation, which involves less ROS production coupled with an efficient antioxidant defence. Chloroplasts are a major site of protein degradation, and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) is rapidly and selectively degraded during senescence and stress. The process of protein degradation is initiated by ROS and involves the action of proteolytic enzymes such as cysteine and serine proteases. The mechanism of Rubisco degradation still remains to be elucidated. The molecular understanding of leaf senescence was achieved through the characterization of senescence-associated genes and various senescence mutants of Arabidopsis, which is a suitable model plant showing monocarpic senescence. The regulation of senescence involves many regulatory elements composed of positive and negative elements to fine-tune the initiation and progression of senescence. This review gives an overview on chloroplast protein degradation during leaf senescence and abiotic stresses and also highlights the role of ROS management in both processes.


Senescence Abiotic stresses Detoxification Proteolysis 



Abscisic acid




Ascorbate peroxidase




Dehydroascorbate reductase


Reduced glutathione


Glutathione reductase


Oxidized glutathione


Jasmonic acid


Monodehydroascorbate reductase


Methyl jasmonate


Guaiacol peroxidase


Reactive oxygen species


Superoxide dismutase



This research was supported by the grants of the National Fellow and ICAR-NPTC scheme of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, India.

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stress Physiology and Biochemistry Laboratory, Water Technology CentreIndian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI)New DelhiIndia

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