abscission the separation of leaves, flowers, and fruits
from plants after the formation of an abscission zone
at the base of their petioles, peduncles, and pedicels.
Abscission, a physiologically determined program of
cell separation,provides a mechanism whereby every
discrete, multicellular plant organ, such as leaves,
flowers, or fruits, becomes detached from the plant
body in a controlled manner
Abscission can be initiated in response to
environmental events such as disease or pathogens, or
it can be a programmed shedding of organs that no
longer provide essential function to the plant,
exemplified by the flower after aiding in pollination.
The process requires the formation of an anatomically
distinct structure, the abscission zone (AZ), which
constitutes the region where organs are detached from
the plant body. Very little is known about which
developmental signals and how cell–cell interactions
inform primordial AZ cells to differentiate.
In deciduous trees, an abscission zone, also
called a separation zone, is formed at the
base of the petiole. It is composed of a top
layer which has cells with weak walls, and a
bottom layer which expands in the autumn,
breaking the weak walls of the cells in the
top layer. This allows the leaf to be shed.
Lack of chlorophyll as a trigger
The reduction of chlorophylls production in
leaves due to decreased sunlight in the fall
explains why some leaves turn yellow.
However, the yellow color can attract aphids,
so some trees turn the leaves red instead by
injecting a bright pigment. The loss of
chlorophyll may also contribute to the
Abscission of the hypanthium during
development of a nectarine fruit
The abscission zone is a layer of weak, thin-walled cells
that form across the base of the plant part where the
break eventually occurs. A corky layer containing
suberin forms beneath the abscission zone to protect
The process occurs at precise sites and involves
coordinated cell wall breakdown. Associated with cell
separation is an increase in the activity of several
hydrolytic enzymes including -1,4-glucanase (cellulase,
EC and polygalacturonase.
The process of leaf loss is called abscission , and is controlled
The abscission zone is located at the base of the petiole in a
region of undifferentiated, small parenchyma cells. Their walls
contain no lignin, and the vascular cells in the abscission zone
are also reduced in size.
The process of abscission is initiated and proceeds as follows:
The parenchyma cells start dividing rapidly.
They secrete a layer of suberin in the walls nearest the stem
The middle lamella, cell walls and cells of the abscission zone
dissolve (enzymatic degradation)
The abscission of leaves is a highly coordinated
phenomenon involving multiple changes in cell
structure, metabolism, and gene expression.
Induction of abscission
There are a variety of enviromental factors accelarate
Mineral defeciency,draught .low light as being
responsible for the shedding of flowers and fruit .
Pollination accelarated petal abscission and failure of
embryonic development seemed associated with the
shedding of young fruit .
Both enviromental and natural factors influencer the
rate of natural abscission .
Role of phytohormones in
causes the abscission of leaves and fruits, abscisic
acid ( ABA ) was found to be an inducing factor
and was named
accordingly. Later it turned out that the formation of
the abscission layer
for leaves and fruits is induced primarily by ethylene.
Auxin (Indol-3-acetic acid or IAA, a plant hormone) and
ethylene have been implicated as prominent regulators of
abscission signaling. The two compounds work in a synergistic
fashion. As the IAA levels decrease, the flux of IAA to the
abscission zone is reduced. Exhaustion of IAA makes the
abscission zone sensitive to ethylene. When the plant is then
exposed to ethylene, gene expression of cell wall degrading
enzymes such as cellulase and polygalacturonase are activated.
However, this is not to say that ethylene directly activates WDE
gene expression, because the elements responsible for detecting
ethylene have not been found in the gene’s promoter region.
While researchers originally believed abscisic acid to be the
hormone that stimulated abscission (for which the hormone was
named), it was later proven that it does not play a primary role.
Dwindling auxin levels have also been implicated in autumn-leaf
color change. Auxins have often been reported either to delay or
to induce fruit abscission and hence may operate as growth
hormones or as abscising agents.
Progressive leaf senescence. a leaf at fully expanded stage characterized by
high auxin levels in equilibrium with ethylene production. b Initiation of leaf
senescence, auxin content decreases and ethylene production increases. Leaf
cells in the abscission zone become sensitive to ethylene action. c Leaf
Role of ABA in abscission
ABA also promotes abscission of leaves and fruits (in
contrast to auxin, which inhibits abscission). It is, in
fact, this action that gave rise to the name abscisic
The dropping of leaves in the autumn is a vital
response to the onset of winter when ground water is
frozen — and thus cannot support transpiration —
and snow load would threaten to break any branches
still in leaf.
Role of GA & cytokinine in abscission
Both gibberellic acid and cytokinins will influence
abscission, although they are thought to be less
than the other plant hormones . Cytokinins can delay
abscission, probably by indirectly
delaying senescence . Gibberellic acid will accelerate
Other Potential Regulators
Long-chain unsaturated fatty acids such as
linolenic acid also enhance abscission .
Experiments on bean abscission zones showed
that the accelerating effect of the C18 unsaturated
fatty acids was mediated by the production of fatty
acid hydroperoxides and that ethylene was not
involved. It is not clear whether these compounds
are involved in the regulation of natural
abscission, but they do accumulate in some
Mechanism of Abscission: Early
The turgor theory:proposed that the solute
concentration in the separation zone cells increased as
a result of starch degradation. The increased turgor
pressure generated in the cells caused them to round
up, tearing the wall along the line of the middle
Second theory belief that abscission involve the
induction of wall-degrading enzymes. It has also been
shown that protein synthesis inhibitors will stop rapid
abscission of petals, removing one of the last
objections to the involvement of wall hydrolases
Normally, the induction of abscission appears to be an integral part of the
senescence program accompanying the yellowing of leaves and
ripening of fruit. In most abscission systems the process can be
accelerated and will take place prematurely in the absence of
senescence. For instance, pollination can dramatically accelerate petal
abscission . In cyclamen, all pollinated flowers shed their corollas in 5
days, whereas unpollinated flowers retained theirs even after 23 days .
Accelerated floral abscission is thought to have evolved to prevent
wasted visits of scarce pollinators to fertilized flowers.
Leaf loss in temperate species accompanies senescence, which in turn is
induced by environmental factors such as photoperiod changes, low
temperatures, and drought. Factors that affect the leaf blade adversely
can cause premature shedding. These include frost damage, drought ,
bacterial or fungal attack , damage by herbivores , mineral deficiencies,
toxins, excessive shading, darkness , and competition with younger
leaves. Leaf fall is not invariably linked to lamina senescence, and
waterstressed ivy plants will shed leaves with the same chlorophyll
content as those still attached to normal healthy plants.
Mechanical Forces and Separation
Although the walls of living cells in the abscission zone
(AZ) are enzymically degraded, mechanical
forces are necessary both to facilitate cell separation
and to rupture the xylem . External forces such as
the wind and gravity may be involved, although they
are usually not sufficient by themselves. Weisner in
1871 showed that if all the living tissues in a petiole
are severed, leaves will often remain attached by
the xylem for long periods, despite these external
Physiological changes during abscission
One of the first detectable changes during the lag phase is
the accumulation of cytoplasm and organells in the
abscission zone cells ,associated with the change in the
rate of respiration and incorporation of precursors in to
both RNA and protiens ,respiratory inhabitors or
inhabitors of RNA and protien synthesis added during this
period markedly inhibit the weaking process
Control of abscission
abscission is controlled by the hormones auxin and
ethylene, and that it is also closely correlated with
environmental factors such as photoperiod,
ozone, wounding and/or attack by pathogens, water
stress, and senescence
Auxin is a primary growth regulator produced in the leaf and
slowly transported toward the stem base through living cells. As
long as auxin is effectively being transported across the
abscission zone, abscission zone cells remain unreactive. As
auxin production begins to wane in fall and auxin transport rates
begin to decline due to less auxin availability, damage to living
cells transporting auxin, and/or accelerating infection of living
tissues by pests, cell wall changes are initiated.
Cell wall changes increasingly inhibit auxin transport and
accelerate ethylene production. Small amounts of ethylene
hasten abscission zone development. ABA (abscisic acid),
responsible (in part) for dormancy on-set in the leaf, stimulates
ethylene production and inhibits auxin transport.