JBIC Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry

, Volume 21, Issue 5–6, pp 715–728 | Cite as

Perception of the plant hormone ethylene: known-knowns and known-unknowns

  • Kenneth M. Light
  • John A. Wisniewski
  • W. Andrew Vinyard
  • Matthew T. Kieber-Emmons
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. E.I. Solomon: Papers in Celebration of His 2016 ACS Alfred Bader Award in Bioorganic or Bioinorganic Chemistry


The gaseous phytohormone ethylene is implicated in virtually all phases of plant growth and development and thus has a major impact on crop production. This agronomic impact makes understanding ethylene signaling the Philosopher’s Stone of the plant biotechnology world in applications including post-harvest transport of foodstuffs, consistency of foodstuff maturity pre-harvest, decorative flower freshness and longevity, and biomass production for biofuel applications. Ethylene is biosynthesized by plants in response to environmental factors and plant life-cycle events, and triggers a signaling cascade that modulates over 1000 genes. The key components in the perception of ethylene are a family of copper dependent receptors, the bioinorganic chemistry of which has been largely ignored by the chemical community. Since identification of these receptors two decades ago, there has been tremendous growth in knowledge in the biological community on the signal transduction pathways and mechanisms of ethylene signaling. In this review, we highlight these advances and key chemical voids in knowledge that are overdue for exploration, and which are required to ultimately regulate and control ethylene signaling.


Ethylene receptor Ethylene signaling Phytohormone Copper-ethylene bonding Ethylene adducts 



Ethylene Response 1


Ethylene Response Sensor 1


Ethylene Response 2


Ethylene Response Sensor 2


Ethylene Insensitive 4


Constitutive Triple Response 1


Ethylene Insensitive 2


Ethylene Insensitive 3


Reversion To Ethylene 1


Never Ripe


1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxycylic acid



A. thaliana

Thale cress

S. lycopersicum


N. tabacum




















W. A. V. is supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Supplementary material

775_2016_1378_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (5.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 5240 kb)


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Copyright information

© SBIC 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth M. Light
    • 1
  • John A. Wisniewski
    • 1
  • W. Andrew Vinyard
    • 1
  • Matthew T. Kieber-Emmons
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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