Plant Hormones Abscisic Acid Auxins Cytokinins Ethylene Gibberellins

Abscisic Acid

Nature of Abscisic Acid

Abscisic acid is a single compound unlike the auxins, gibberellins, and cytokinins. It was called "abscisin II" originally because it was thought to play a major role in abscission of fruits. At about the same time another group was calling it "dormin" because they thought it had a major role in bud dormancy. The name abscisic acid (ABA) was coined by a compromise between the two groups. Though ABA generally is thought to play mostly inhibitory roles, it has many promoting functions as well(Arteca, 1996; Mauseth, 1991; Raven, 1992; Salisbury and Ross, 1992).

History of Abscisic Acid

In 1963, abscisic acid was first identified and characterized by Frederick Addicott and his associates. They were studying compounds responsible for the abscission of fruits (cotton). Two compounds were isolated and called abscisin I and abscisin II. Abscisin II is presently called abscisic acid (ABA)(Addicot, 1963). Two other groups at about the same time discovered the same compound. One group headed by Philip Wareing was studying bud dormancy in woody plants. The other group led by Van Steveninck was studying abscission of flowers and fruits from lupine. Plant physiologists agreed to call the compound abscisic acid (Salisbury and Ross, 1992).

Biosynthesis and Metabolism

ABA is a naturally occurring compound in plants. It is a sesquiterpenoid (15-carbon) which is partially produced via the mevalonic pathway in chloroplasts and other plastids. Because it is sythesized partially in the chloroplasts, it makes sense that biosynthesis primarily occurs in the leaves. The production of ABA is accentuated by stresses such as water loss and freezing temperatures. It is believed that biosynthesis occurs indirectly through the production of carotenoids. Carotenoids are pigments produced by the chloroplast which have 40 carbons.

Breakdown of these carotenoids occurs by the following mechanism:

Functions of Abscisic Acid

The following are some of the phyysiological responses known to be associated with abscisic acid (Davies, 1995; Mauseth, 1991; Raven, 1992; Salisbury and Ross, 1992).