Abscisic acid (ABA) is an important phytohormone that plays a critical role in seed development, dormancy, and stress tolerance. 9-cis-Epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase is the key enzyme controlling ABA biosynthesis and stress tolerance. In this study, we investigated the effect of ectopic expression of another ABA biosynthesis gene, ABA2 (or GLUCOSE INSENSITIVE 1 ( GIN1 )) encoding a short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase in Arabidopsis ( Arabidopsis thaliana ). We show that ABA2 -overexpressing transgenic plants with elevated ABA levels exhibited seed germination delay and more tolerance to salinity than wild type when grown on agar plates and/or in soil. However, the germination delay was abolished in transgenic plants showing ABA levels over 2-fold higher than that of wild type grown on 250 m m NaCl. The data suggest that there are distinct mechanisms underlying ABA-mediated inhibition of seed germination under diverse stress. The ABA-deficient mutant aba2 , with a shorter primary root, can be restored to normal root growth by exogenous application of ABA, whereas transgenic plants overexpressing ABA2 showed normal root growth. The data reflect that the basal levels of ABA are essential for maintaining normal primary root elongation. Furthermore, analysis of ABA2 promoter activity with ABA2 ∷ β -glucuronidase transgenic plants revealed that the promoter activity was enhanced by multiple prolonged stresses, such as drought, salinity, cold, and flooding, but not by short-term stress treatments. Coincidently, prolonged drought stress treatment led to the up-regulation of ABA biosynthetic and sugar-related genes. Thus, the data support ABA2 as a late expression gene that might have a fine-tuning function in mediating ABA biosynthesis through primary metabolic changes in response to stress.
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