Cytokinin and MAX2 signaling pathways act antagonistically in drought adaptation of Arabidopsis thaliana


Understanding the mechanisms, especially those associated with phytohormones, of plant drought adaptation is crucial for sustaining agricultural production in the era of climate change. Arabidopsis histidine kinases (AHKs), an integral part of the cytokinin signaling pathway, and more axillary growth 2 (MAX2), a key component of the strigolactone and karrikin signaling pathways are reported to act as negative and positive regulators, respectively, in plant adaption to drought. However, the potential interaction between these singaling pathways in plant drought adaptation is not fully understood. To address this query, we assessed drought tolerance levels and associated phenotypic and physiological traits of the max2 single mutant, ahk2 ahk3 double mutant, ahk2 ahk3 max2 triple mutant, and wild-type (WT) Arabidopsis thaliana plants. Our findings revealed a distinct hierarchy in drought tolerance among these genotypes, as indicated by the differences in plant growth and stress survival rates. Specifically, the max2 mutant displayed the lowest drought tolerance level, followed by WT, ahk2 ahk3 max2, and ahk2 ahk3 plants. Additionally, the observed changes in leaf relative water content, leaf surface temperature, and cuticle formation were coherently aligned with the observed hierarchy of drought tolerance levels. Under drought conditions, the max2 mutant exhibited higher oxidative stress and membrane damage, as evidenced by increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), malondialdehyde, and electrolyte leakage. In contrast, the ahk2 ahk3 and ahk2 ahk3 max2 mutants showed low and intermediate levels, respectively, for these parameters. The max2 mutant displayed reduced sensitivity, whereas ahk2 ahk3 and ahk2 ahk3 max2 mutants demonstrated high and intermediate sensitivities, respectively, to exogenous abscisic acid (ABA) treatments. Additionally, the expression analysis of several genes associated with the investigated drought tolerance-related traits showed a positive correlation between the transcript levels and corresponding trait(s) in both mutant and WT plants under drought conditions. Our results collectively indicate the presence of an antagonistic interaction between AHK and MAX2 signaling pathways in plant drought adaptation, impacting ABA responsiveness, leaf water retention, cuticle development, and ROS homestasis. The findings of this study provide a valuable foundation for developing agricultural methods to improve plant drought resilience.


© 2024 The Author(s) cc-by


Arabidopsis histidine kinases, Cytokinins, Drought tolerance, Interaction, More axillary growth 2


Nguyen, K.H., Li, Z., Wang, C., Van, Ha, C., Tran, C.D., Abdelrahman, M., Pham, X.H., Trung, K.H., Khanh, T.D., Chu, H.D., Mostofa, M.G., Watanabe, Y., Wang, Y., Miao, Y., Mochida, K., Pal, S., Li, W., & Tran, L.-S.P.. 2024. Cytokinin and MAX2 signaling pathways act antagonistically in drought adaptation of Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Stress, 12.