The Evolution of Ethylene Signaling in Plant Chemical Ecology

Simon C. Groen, Noah K. Whiteman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Ethylene is a key hormone in plant development, mediating plant responses to abiotic environmental stress, and interactions with attackers and mutualists. Here, we provide a synthesis of the role of ethylene in the context of plant ecology and evolution, and a prospectus for future research in this area. We focus on the regulatory function of ethylene in multi-organismal interactions. In general, plant interactions with different types of organisms lead to reduced or enhanced levels of ethylene. This in turn affects not only the plant's response to the interacting organism at hand, but also to other organisms in the community. These community-level effects become observable as enhanced or diminished relationships with future commensals, and systemic resistance or susceptibility to secondary attackers. Ongoing comparative genomic and phenotypic analyses continue to shed light on these interactions. These studies have revealed that plants and interacting organisms from separate kingdoms of life have independently evolved the ability to produce, perceive, and respond to ethylene. This signature of convergent evolution of ethylene signaling at the phenotypic level highlights the central role ethylene metabolism and signaling plays in plant interactions with microbes and animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-716
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Arabidopsis
  • Botrytis
  • Defense
  • Ethylene
  • Herbivore
  • Immunity
  • Insect
  • Pathogen
  • Plant
  • Pseudomonas
  • Tobacco
  • Tomato

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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