Journal Article

Ethylene-promoted Elongation: an Adaptation to Submergence Stress

Michael B. Jackson

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 101, issue 2, pages 229-248
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Ethylene-promoted Elongation: an Adaptation to Submergence Stress

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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A sizeable minority of taxa is successful in areas prone to submergence. Many such plants elongate with increased vigour when underwater. This helps to restore contact with the aerial environment by shortening the duration of inundation. Poorly adapted species are usually incapable of this underwater escape.


Evidence implicating ethylene as the principal factor initiating fast underwater elongation by leaves or stems is evaluated comprehensively along with its interactions with other hormones and gases. These interactions make up a sequence of events that link the perception of submergence to a prompt acceleration of extension. The review encompasses whole plant physiology, cell biology and molecular genetics. It includes assessments of how submergence threatens plant life and of the extent to which the submergence escape demonstrably improves the likelihood of survival.


Experimental testing over many years establishes ethylene-promoted underwater extension as one of the most convincing examples of hormone-mediated stress adaptation by plants. The research has utilized a wide range of species that includes numerous angiosperms, a fern and a liverwort. It has also benefited from detailed physiological and molecular studies of underwater elongation by rice (Oryza sativa) and the marsh dock (Rumex palustris). Despite complexities and interactions, the work reveals that the signal transduction pathway is initiated by the simple expediency of physical entrapment of ethylene within growing cells by a covering of water.

Keywords: Adaptation; aquatic plants; ethylene; flooding; growth; hypoxia; plant hormones; signal transduction; stress; submergence; review; rice

Journal Article.  16054 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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