Low temperature, drought, and high salinity are common stress conditions that adversely affect plant growth and crop production. The cellular and molecular responses of plants to environmental stress have been studied intensively (Thomashow, 1999 ; Hasegawa et al., 2000 ). Understanding the mechanisms by which plants perceive environmental signals and transmit the signals to cellular machinery to activate adaptive responses is of fundamental importance to biology. Knowledge about stress signal transduction is also vital for continued development of rational breeding and transgenic strategies to improve stress tolerance in crops. In this review, we first consider common characteristics of stress signal transduction in plants, and then examine some recent studies on the functional analysis of signaling components. Finally, we attempt to put these components and pathways into signal transduction networks that are grouped into three generalized signaling types. General Stress Signal Transduction Pathways A generic signal transduction pathway starts with signal perception, followed by the generation of second messengers (e.g., inositol phosphates and reactive oxygen species [ROS]). Second messengers can modulate intracellular Ca 2+ levels, often initiating a protein phosphorylation cascade that finally targets proteins directly involved in cellular protection or transcription factors controlling specific sets of stress-regulated genes
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