Friend or foe? Reactive oxygen species production, scavenging and signaling in plant response to environmental stresses

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In the natural environment, plants are exposed to a variety of biotic and abiotic stress conditions that trigger rapid changes in the production and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The production and scavenging of ROS is compartmentalized, which means that, depending on stimuli type, they can be generated and eliminated in different cellular compartments such as the apoplast, plasma membrane, chloroplasts, mitochondria, peroxisomes, and endoplasmic reticulum. Although the accumulation of ROS is generally harmful to cells, ROS play an important role in signaling pathways that regulate acclimatory and defense responses in plants, such as systemic acquired acclimation (SAA) and systemic acquired resistance (SAR). However, high accumulations of ROS can also trigger redox homeostasis disturbance which can lead to cell death, and in consequence, to a limitation in biomass and yield production. Different ROS have various half-lifetimes and degrees of reactivity toward molecular components such as lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Thus, they play different roles in intra- and extra-cellular signaling. Despite their possible damaging effect, ROS should mainly be considered as signaling molecules that regulate local and systemic acclimatory and defense responses. Over the past two decades it has been proven that ROS together with non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), hormones, Ca2+ waves, and electrical signals are the main players in SAA and SAR, two physiological processes essential for plant survival and productivity in unfavorable conditions.

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