Action of natural abscisic acid precursors and catabolites on abscisic acid receptor complexes

Michal Kepka, Chantel L. Benson, Vijay K. Gonugunta, Ken M. Nelson, Alexander Christmann, Erwin Grill, Suzanne R. Abrams

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49 Scopus citations


The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) regulates stress responses and controls numerous aspects of plant growth and development. Biosynthetic precursors and catabolites of ABA have been shown to trigger ABA responses in physiological assays, but it is not clear whether these are intrinsically active or whether they are converted into ABA in planta. In this study, we analyzed the effect of ABA precursors, conjugates, and catabolites on hormone signaling in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). The compounds were also tested in vitro for their ability to regulate the phosphatase moiety of ABA receptor complexes consisting of the protein phosphatase 2C ABI2 and the coreceptors RCAR1/PYL9, RCAR3/PYL8, and RCAR11/ PYR1. Using mutants defective in ABA biosynthesis, we show that the physiological activity associated with ABA precursors derives predominantly from their bioconversion to ABA. The ABA glucose ester conjugate, which is the most widespread storage form of ABA, showed weak ABA-like activity in germination assays and in triggering ABA signaling in protoplasts. The ABA conjugate and precursors showed negligible activity as a regulatory ligand of the ABI2/RCAR receptor complexes. The majority of ABA catabolites were inactive in our assays. To analyze the chemically unstable 8'- and 9'-hydroxylated ABA catabolites, we used stable tetralone derivatives of these compounds, which did trigger selective ABA responses. ABA synthetic analogs exhibited differential activity as regulatory ligands of different ABA receptor complexes in vitro. The data show that ABA precursors, catabolites, and conjugates have limited intrinsic bioactivity and that both natural and synthetic ABA-related compounds can be used to probe the structural requirements of ABA ligand-receptor interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2108-2119
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


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