July 6, 2023
Journal Article

Fermentation-mediated growth, signaling, and defense in plants


While traditionally considered important mainly in hypoxic roots during flooding, upregulation of fermentation pathways in plants has recently been described as an evolutionarily conserved drought survival strategy, with acetate signaling mediating reprograming of transcription and cellular carbon and energy metabolism from roots to leaves. The amount of acetate produced directly correlates to survival through potential mechanisms including defense gene activation, biosynthesis of primary and secondary metabolites, and aerobic respiration. Here, we review root ethanolic fermentation responses to hypoxia during saturated soil conditions and summarize studies highlighting acetate fermentation under aerobic conditions coupled with respiration during growth and drought responses. Recent work is discussed demonstrating long distance transport of acetate via the transpiration stream as a respiratory substrate. While maintenance and growth respiration are often modeled separately in terrestrial models, here we propose the concept of “Defense Respiration” fueled by acetate fermentation in which upregulation of acetate fermentation contributes acetate substrate for alternative energy production via aerobic respiration, biosynthesis of primary and secondary metabolites, and the acetylation of proteins involved in defense gene regulation. Finally, we highlight new frontiers in leaf-atmosphere emission measurements as a potential way to study acetate fermentation responses of individual leaves, branches, ecosystems and regions.

Published: July 6, 2023


Jardine K., and N.G. McDowell. 2023. Fermentation-mediated growth, signaling, and defense in plants. New Phytologist 239, no. 3:839-851. PNNL-SA-183144. doi:10.1111/nph.19015

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