Nitric Oxide Signalling in Plants


Nitric oxide (NO) is a small simple molecule, but one which is instrumental in cell signalling in a range of organisms including plants. It is a gas, often found in the form of a radical. It is produced in cells in an orchestrated manner, usually by dedicated enzymes and often following stress. It leads to numerous responses. In plants it is involved in seed germination, seedling development, stomatal responses, senescence and protection against pathogens, so is an instrumental signalling molecule used throughout the life of the plant. Responses to NO may involve the generation of other signalling molecules such as cGMP or the covalent modification of proteins in a process known as S‚Äźnitrosation. However, it should be noted that NO signalling will not be isolated in the cell and NO will impinge on other signalling pathways, such as those involving reactive oxygen species. Therefore, NO should be considered as part of a suite of signalling components which enable plants to thrive and survive.

Key Concepts

  • NO, along with reactive oxygen species (ROS), is produced by plants during normal growth and development and its production is often increased as part of stress responses.
  • NO is involved in a range of plant processes including pollen recognition and germination, seed germination, senescence, pathogen attack, gravitropism and stomatal responses.
  • NO can be generated enzymatically or nonenzymatically in cells.
  • Nitrate reductase is a key enzyme which generates NO.
  • NO may lead to increases in cGMP levels in cells.
  • NO, or downstream products, may lead to modification of proteins and hence their activities.
  • Removal of NO is important for signalling.
  • The signalling involving NO will affect, and be affected by, other signalling pathways including those involving reactive oxygen species and hydrogen sulfide.

Keywords: GSNOR; nitrosation; nitration; nitrate reductase; nitric oxide; reactive oxygen species; stress

Figure 1. Schematic representation of how nitric oxide (NO) may fit into signalling pathways. Its production can be initiated by a range of cues and it may mediate several changes within cells resulting in a variety of outcomes.


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Further Reading

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Zaffagnini M, Fermani S, Costa A, et al. (2013) Plant cytoplasmic GAPDH: redox post‐translational modifications and moonlighting properties. Frontiers in Plant Science 4: 450.

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Hancock, John T, Wilson, Helen R, and Neill, Steven J(Jan 2017) Nitric Oxide Signalling in Plants. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020109.pub2]