Auxin and ethylene have been largely reported to reduce root elongation in maize primary root. However the effects of auxin are greater than those caused by ethylene. Although auxin stimulates ethylene biosynthesis through the specific increase of ACC synthase, the auxin inhibitory effect on root elongation is not mediated by the auxin-induced increase of ethylene production. Recently it has been demonstrated that root inhibition by the application of the synthetic auxin NAA (1-naphtalenacetic acid) is increased if combined with the ethylene precursor ACC (1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxilic acid) when both compounds are applied at very low concentrations. Root elongation is basically the result of two processes: a) cell divisions in the meristem where meristematic cells continuously generate new cells and b) subsequently polarized growth by elongation along the root axis as cells leave the meristem and enter the root elongation zone. Our results indicate that exogenous auxin reduced both root elongation and epidermal cell length. In a different way, ethylene at very low concentrations only inhibited root elongation without affecting significantly epidermal cell length. However, these concentrations of ethylene increased the inhibitory effect of auxin on root elongation and cell length. Consequently the results support the hypothesis that ethylene acts synergistically with auxin in the regulation of root elongation and that inhibition by both hormones is due, at least partially, to the reduction of cell length in the epidermal layer.
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