Polyamines have been found to correlate frequently with biotic and abiotic insults, and their functional involvement in the plant responses to several stresses has been shown genetically with both gain and loss of function mutations. In spite of a large body of physiological and genetic data, the mode of action for polyamines at the molecular level still remains elusive. We have recently performed a detailed integrated analysis of polyamine metabolism under cold stress by means of metabolic studies, quantitative gene expression analyses, and gene inactivations, to characterize in more detail the role of polyamines in response to low temperature. Our data show a unique accumulation profile for putrescine compared to other polyamines, with a progressive increase upon cold stress treatment coincident with a similar transcriptional upregulation for the two arginine decarboxylase genes ADC1 and ADC2. Loss of function mutants adc1 and adc2 display reduced freezing tolerance and alterations in ABA content and ABA-dependent signalling pathways under low temperature, compared to wild type plants. Phenotypical reverse complementation tests for both adc and ABA-defective mutants support our conclusion that putrescine modulates ABA biosynthesis at the transcriptional level in response to low temperature thus uncovering a novel mode of action for polyamines as regulators of hormone biosynthesis.
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