, Volume 253, Issue 2, pp 259–275 | Cite as

Characterization of natural leaf senescence in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plants grown in vitro

  • Branka Uzelac
  • Dušica Janošević
  • Ana Simonović
  • Václav Motyka
  • Petre I. Dobrev
  • Snežana Budimir
Original Article


Leaf senescence is a highly regulated final phase of leaf development preceding massive cell death. It results in the coordinated degradation of macromolecules and the subsequent nutrient relocation to other plant parts. Very little is still known about early stages of leaf senescence during normal leaf ontogeny that is not triggered by stress factors. This paper comprises an integrated study of natural leaf senescence in tobacco plants grown in vitro, using molecular, structural, and physiological information. We determined the time sequence of ultrastructural changes in mesophyll cells during leaf senescence, showing that the degradation of chloroplast ultrastructure fully correlated with changes in chlorophyll content. The earliest degenerative changes in chloroplast ultrastructure coinciding with early chromatin condensation were observed already in mature green leaves. A continuum of degradative changes in chloroplast ultrastructure, chromatin condensation and aggregation, along with progressive decrease in cytoplasm organization and electron density were observed in the course of mesophyll cells ageing. Although the total amounts of endogenous cytokinins gradually increased during leaf ontogenesis, the proportion of bioactive cytokinin forms, as well as their phosphate precursors, in total cytokinin content rapidly declined with ageing. Endogenous indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) levels were strongly reduced in senescent leaves, and a decreasing tendency was also observed for abscisic acid (ABA) levels. Senescence-associated tobacco cysteine proteases (CP, E.C. 3.4.22) CP1 and CP23 genes were induced in the initial phase of senescence. Genes encoding glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH, E.C. and one isoform of cytosolic glutamine synthetase (GS1, E.C. were induced in the late stage of senescence, while chloroplastic GS (GS2) gene showed a continuous decrease with leaf ageing.


Leaf senescence Mesophyll ultrastructure Phytohormones qRT-PCR Tobacco 



Abscisic acid


Cysteine protease






Glutamate dehydrogenase


Glutamine synthetase


Cytosolic GS


Chloroplastic GS


Indole-3-acetic acid


Jasmonic acid




Nitrate reductase coding gene


Nitrate reductase


Programmed cell death


Proteasome A-type subunit




Salicylic acid


Senescence-associated gene



This work was supported by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development Grant No. 173015 and the Czech Science Foundation (Project P506/11/0774). The authors would like to thank the Botanical Garden of Nijmegen for kindly providing us with N. tabacum seeds. The excellent technical assistance with phytohormone analyses by Marie Korecká and Jan Sedláček is highly appreciated.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

709_2015_802_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (146 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 146 kb)
709_2015_802_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (163 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 162 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Branka Uzelac
    • 1
  • Dušica Janošević
    • 2
  • Ana Simonović
    • 1
  • Václav Motyka
    • 3
  • Petre I. Dobrev
    • 3
  • Snežana Budimir
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Biological Research “Siniša Stanković”University of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  2. 2.Institute of Botany and Botanical Garden “Jevremovac”, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  3. 3.Laboratory of Hormonal Regulations in Plants, Institute of Experimental BotanyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPraha 6Czech Republic

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