The ABA-mediated switch between submersed and emersed life-styles in aquatic macrophytes
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Hydrophytes comprise aquatic macrophytes from various taxa that are able to sustain and to complete their lifecycle in a flooded environment. Their ancestors, however, underwent adaptive processes to withstand drought on land and became partially or completely independent of water for sexual reproduction. Interestingly, the step backwards into the high-density aquatic medium happened independently several times in numerous plant taxa. For flowering plants, this submersed life-style is especially difficult as they need to erect their floral organs above the water surface to be pollinated. Moreover, fresh-water plants evolved the adaptive mechanism of heterophylly, which enabled them to switch between a submersed and an emersed leaf morphology. The plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) is a key factor of heterophylly induction in aquatic plants and is a major switch between a submersed and emersed life. The mechanisms of ABA signal perception and transduction appear to be conserved throughout the evolution of basal plants to angiosperms and from terrestrial to aquatic plants. This review summarizes the interplay of environmental factors that act through ABA to orchestrate adaptation of plants to their aquatic environment.