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Ethylene receptors in plants - why so much complexity?

Ethylene is a hormone involved in numerous aspects of growth, development, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses in plants. Ethylene is perceived through its binding to endoplasmic reticulum-localized receptors that function as negative regulators of ethylene signaling in the absence of the hormone. In Arabidopsis thaliana, five structurally and functionally different ethylene receptors are present. These differ in their primary sequence, in the domains present, and in the type of kinase activity exhibited, which may suggest functional differences among the receptors. Whereas ethylene receptors functionally overlap to suppress ethylene signaling, certain other responses are controlled by specific receptors. In this review, I examine the nature of these receptor differences, how the evolution of the ethylene receptor gene family may provide insight into their differences, and how expression of receptors or their accessory proteins may underlie receptor-specific responses.

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