Plant Molecular Biology Reporter

, Volume 25, Issue 3–4, pp 98–114 | Cite as

The Induction of Abscisic-Acid-Mediated Drought Tolerance is Independent of Ethylene Signaling in Arabidopsis Plants Responding to a Harpin Protein

  • Chunling Zhang
  • Jun Qian
  • Zhilong Bao
  • Xiaoyue Hong
  • Hansong Dong


Harpin proteins from plant pathogenic bacteria can activate distinct signaling pathways and cause multiple effects in plants. When Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) plants are treated with the HrpNEa harpin produced by Erwinia amylovora, a bacterial pathogen that causes fire blight in rosaceous plants, abscisic acid (ABA) is stimulated to mediate drought tolerance, and ethylene signaling is activated to regulate plant growth enhancement and insect resistance. It is unclear if ABA and ethylene signaling interacts in response to harpin proteins. Here we report that ethylene signaling is dispensable to the induction of ABA-mediated drought tolerance in Arabidopsis. In wild-type (WT) plants growing under drought stress conditions, ABA, but not ethylene, was required for HrpNEa to promote cellular adaptive responses and decrease drought severity of plants. During the induction of drought tolerance in HrpNEa-treated WT plants, expression of the ABA signaling gene ABI2 was induced coincidently with decreases in transcripts of ETR1, which encodes an ethylene receptor, and several other genes that are also involved in ABA and ethylene signal transduction pathways. In response to HrpNEa, the Arabidopsis etr1-1 mutant developed drought tolerance similarly as did WT, but the abi2-1 mutant did not, suggesting that sensing of ABA is essential, but sensing of ethylene is not. Consistently, the induction of drought tolerance was abolished by inhibiting WT to synthesize ABA, instead of ethylene. Our results suggest that HrpNEa treatment enables plants to prioritize the ABA signal transduction pathway over ethylene signaling in accordance with the real-time requirement to survive under drought stress conditions.


Abscisic acid Arabidopsis Drought tolerance Ethylene HrpNEa ABI2 



abscisic acid


a 2C phosphatase


ABA-insensitive Arabidopsis mutant with a defect in the function of ABI2


amonooxyacetic acid


day(s) posttreatment


empty vector preparation


hour(s) posttreatment


jasmonic acid


Nordihydroguaiaretic acid


polyethylene glycol




salicylic acid



This study was supported by National Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars of China (grant no. 30525088), National Development Plan of Key Basic Scientific Studies (The 973 Plan) of China Project 2 (2006CB101902), Ministry of Education of China Century-Across Talent Award (2002-48), and National Hightechnology Development Plan (The 863 Plan) of China (2006AA10Z430).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chunling Zhang
    • 1
  • Jun Qian
    • 1
  • Zhilong Bao
    • 1
  • Xiaoyue Hong
    • 1
  • Hansong Dong
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Plant Growth and Defense Signaling Laboratory, Group of Key Laboratory of Monitoring and Management of Plant Pathogens and Insect Pests, Ministry of Agriculture of People’s Republic of ChinaNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.College of Plant ProtectionNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina

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