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The Molecular Biology Of Leaf Senescence

V. Buchanan-Wollaston
Published 1997 · Biology

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Senescence is a complex, highly regulated, developmental phase in the life of a leaf that results in the co-ordinated degradation of macromolecules and the subsequent mobilization of components to other parts of the plant. The application of molecular biology techniques to the study of leaf senescence has, in the last few years, enabled the isolation and characterization of a large range of cDNA clones representing genes that show increased expression in senescing leaves. The analysis of these genes and identification of the function of the encoded proteins will allow a picture of the complex processes that take place during senescence to be assembled. To date, genes encoding degradative enzymes such as proteases and nucleases, enzymes involved in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and enzymes involved in nitrogen mobilization have all been identified as senescenceenhanced genes. A variety of other genes of no obvious senescence-related function have also been identified; their role in senescence may be less predictable and, possibly, more interesting. The combined action of several internal and external signals may be involved in the induction of senescence. Analysis of the regulatory mechanisms controlling the expression of senescence-induced genes will allow the signalling pathways that are involved in the regulation of senescence to be elucidated. Experiments with transgenic plants and mutants are already shedding light on the role played by cytokinins and ethylene in regulating senescence in leaves.
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