The Role of Hydrogen Peroxide in Controlling Plant Cell-Signaling and Gene-Expression Patterns Related to Stress and Defense Responses

By Merit P. George
2014, Vol. 6 No. 06 | pg. 3/3 |


Though many of the signaling pathways for hydrogen peroxide-mediated stress and defense responses have been studied extensively, there exist multiple avenues of additional research that can further clarify the mechanism and modulating factors for these pathways. As one example, future research should attempt to delineate the impact of more endogenous compounds that can strengthen or weaken the wound-response and abiotic stress-response. Nitric oxide has been shown to negatively modulate wound signaling in the tomato plant Lycopersicon esculentum, blocking hydrogen peroxide production and proteinase inhibitor synthesis stimulated by systemin and jasmonic acid (Orozco-Cardenas and Ryan 2001). However, a seemingly opposite trend is present when considering responses to abiotic stressors such as light and drought conditions. In these cases, nitric oxide has been shown to work hand-in-hand with hydrogen peroxide to induce myo-inositol phosphate synthase that confers multiple resistances to abiotic stresses, to reduce stress from drought in marigold plants, and to alter expression of genes in citrus plants to influence acclimation to salinity (Tan et al. 2013; Liao et al. 2012; Tanou et al. 2009). Therefore, it is important to study whether the role of nitric oxide, and other endogenous compounds, in defense responses depends on factors such as specific type of wounding event or stressor by conducting additional research that varies such conditions. As a related suggestion, additional research should focus on studying the well-documented effects of compounds such as glutathione reductase and micronutrients in taxa that have not been studied previously. Learning about variations in mechanism and effect will be crucial for understanding how certain plants can survive in differential environments, and might suggest baseline genetic differences between different species in H2O2–mediated signaling pathways.

Another important aspect of future research concerning hydrogen peroxide and its role in plant defense systems involves tracking the molecular basis for how some insects can bypass H2O2–based wound responses in plants. Recent studies have suggested that the oxidative burst that occurs after the initial wounding event may actually provide insects with a way to sidestep subsequent plant responses because it allows a timeframe in which the insect can focus on silencing plant defenses while the plant focuses on reducing hydrogen peroxide levels (Kim et al. 2012). Further investigation into the relative timing of the oxidative burst and H2O2- scavenging activities will allow researchers to determine the ideal time for insect attempts to bypass natural plant defenses. Such information would allow for the development of protocols involving the use of various exogenous products as added protection for plants. As an example, several micronutrients such as riboflavin and cadmium have been found to boost the strength of H2O2–mediated stress and defense responses (Azami-Sardooei et al. 2010; Tamas et al. 2009). A major question is whether such increases in overall magnitude of response can also effectively block insect attempts to silence plant defenses during the scavenging period following oxidative burst.

One last direction for future research is to work towards creating a mathematical model for the level of hydrogen peroxide throughout entire defense or wound-event pathways. Creation of such a model would depend on implementation of multiple trials with different plants and different stressors. Being able to quantitatively assess variations in H2O2 from oxidative burst to subsequent signaling pathways would form the basis for more easily discriminating between defense mechanisms. Furthermore, such a real-time model would facilitate wild-type/mutant comparative studies examining the effects of knockout of one or more genes relevant to hydrogen peroxide signaling pathways.


  • Hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, is an endogenous molecule in plants that is part of a group of cellular components referred to as reactive oxygen species (ROS) (Orozco-Cardenas, Narvaez-Vasquez and Ryan 2001).
  • H2O2 activates MAPK cascades and mediates UV-B-induced gene expression, as indicated by down-regulation of UV-induced gene PDF1 in Arabidopsis plants exposed to antioxidants and UV-B light (Lebrun-Garcia et al. 1998; AH Mackerness et al. 1999).
  • In wound pathways, H2O2 serves as a local signal for hypersensitive cell death and cell wall stiffening, stimulates defense-genes in adjacent cells, and is linked to up-regulation of phenylpropanoid genes expressing phenolic defense compounds (Orozco-Cardenas, Narvaez-Vasquez and Ryan 2001; Lawton et al. 1983).
  • The polyamine oxidase gene (NbPAO) is essential for H2O2 generation and subsequent hypersensitive response, and may be part of a larger Rboh gene network that includes other respiratory burst oxidase homologs (Yoda et al. 2009; Drerup et al. 2013).
  • Many exogenous and endogenous compounds have been implicated in H2O2- mediated stress and defense pathways, including several enzyme and micronutrients. Future research should report additional influential structures and clarify known pathways.


A-H-Mackerness, S., Surplus, S. L., Blake, P., John, C. F., & Buchanan-Wollaston, V. (1999). Ultraviolet-B induced stress and changes in gene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana: Role of signaling pathways controlled by jasmonic acid, ethylene and reactive oxygen species. Plant, Cell and Environment, 22, 1413–1423.

Azami-Sardooei, Z., França, S. C., De-Vleesschauwer, D., & Höfte, M. (2010). Riboflavin induces resistance against Botrytis cinerea in bean, but not in tomato, by priming for a hydrogen peroxide-fueled resistance response. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, 75, 23-29.

Ball, L., Accotto, G. P., Bechtold, U., Creissen, G., Funck, D., Jimenez, A., ... Mullineaux, P. M. (2004). Evidence for a direct link between glutathione biosynthesis and stress defense gene expression in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell, 16, 2448–2462.

Baxter, A., Mittler, R., & Suzuki, N. (2013). ROS as key players in plant stress signaling. Journal of Experimental Botany, 65, 1229-1240.

Dat, J., Vandenabeele, S., Vranová, E., Van-Montagu, M., Inzé, D., & Breusegum, F. (2000). Dual action of the active oxygen species during plant stress responses. CMLS Cell Mol Life Sci, 57, 779–795.

De-Bruxelles, G. L., & Roberts, M. R. (2001). Signals regulating multiple responses to wounding and herbivores. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 20, 487-521.

Desikan, R., A-H-Mackerness, S., Hancock, J. T., & Neill, S. J. (2001). Regulation of the Arabidopsis transcriptome by oxidative stress. Plant Physiol, 127, 159–172.

Drerup, M. M., Schlücking, K., Hashimoto, K., Manishankar, P., Steinhorst, L., Kuchitsu, K., & Kudla, J. (2013). The calcineurin B-like calcium sensors CBL1 and CBL9 together with their interacting protein kinase CIPK26 regulate the Arabidopsis NADPH oxidase RBOHF. Molecular Plant, 6, 559-569.

Jänkänpää, H. J., Frenkel, M., Zulfugarov, I., Reichelt, M., Krieger-Liszkay, A., Mishra, Y., ... & Jansson, S. (2013). Non-photochemical quenching capacity in Arabidopsis thaliana affects herbivore behaviour. PLoS One, 8, e53232

Kim, J., Tooker, J. F., Luthe, D. S., De Moraes, C. M., & Felton, G. W. (2012). Insect eggs can enhance wound response in plants: A study system of tomato Solanum lycopersicum L. and Helicoverpa zea. PloS One, 7, e37420.

Lawton, M. A., Dixon, R. A., Hahlbrock, K., & Lamb, C. (1983). Rapid induction of the synthesis of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase and of chalcone synthase in elicitor-treated plant cells. Eur J Biochem, 129, 593–601.

Lebrun-Garcia, A., Ouaked, F., Chiltz, A., & Pugin, A. (1998). Activation of MAPK homologues by elicitors in tobacco cells. Plant J., 15, 773–781.

Levine, A., Pennell, R. L., Alvarez, M. E., Palmer, R., & Lamb, C. (1996). Calcium-mediated apoptosis in a plant hypersensitive disease resistance response. Current Biology, 6, 427– 437.

Levine, A., Tenhaken, R., Dixon, R., & Lamb, C. (1994). H202 from the oxidative burst orchestrates the plant hypersensitive disease resistance. Annu Rev Plant Physiol, 121, 245-257.

Liao, W. B., Huang, G. B., Yu, J. H., & Zhang, M. L. (2012). Nitric oxide and hydrogen peroxide alleviate drought stress in marigold explants and promote its adventitious root development. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 58, 6-15.

Marino, D., Andrio, E., Danchin, E. G., Oger, E., Gucciardo, S., Lambert, A., ... & Pauly, N. (2011). A Medicago truncatula NADPH oxidase is involved in symbiotic nodule functioning. New Phytologist, 189, 580-592.

Maruta, T., Inoue, T., Noshi, M., Tamoi, M., Yabuta, Y., Yoshimura, K., ... & Shigeoka, S. (2012). Cytosolic ascorbate peroxidase 1 protects organelles against oxidative stress by wounding-and jasmonate induced H2O2 in Arabidopsis plants. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-General Subjects, 1820, 1901-1907.

Mhamdi, A., Hager, J., Chaouch, S., Queval, G., Han, Y., Taconnat, L., ... & Noctor, G. (2010). Arabidopsis glutathione reductase1 plays a crucial role in leaf responses to intracellular hydrogen peroxide and in ensuring appropriate gene expression through both salicylic acid and jasmonic acid signaling pathways. Plant Physiology, 153, 1144-1160.

Mullineaux, P. M., & Karpinski, S. (2002). Signal transduction in response to excess light: getting out of the chloroplast. Curr Opin Plant Biol, 5, 43–48.

Neill, S. J., Desikan, R., Clarke, A., Hurst, R. D., & Hancock, J. T. (2002). Hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide as signaling molecules in plants. Journal of Experimental Botany, 53, 1237-1247.

Orozco-Cardenas, M. L. & Ryan, C. A. (1999). Hydrogen peroxide is generated systemically in plant leaves by wounding and systemin via the octadecanoid pathway. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 96, 6553–57.

Orozco-Cárdenas, M. L., Narváez-Vásquez, J., & Ryan, C. A. (2001). Hydrogen peroxide acts as a second messenger for the induction of defense genes in tomato plants in response to wounding, systemin, and methyl jasmonate. The Plant Cell Online, 13, 179-191.

Petzold-Maxwell, J., Wong, S., Arellano, C., & Gould, F. (2011). Host plant direct defense against eggs of its specialist herbivore, Heliothis subflexa. Ecol Entomol, 36, 700–708.

Potikha, T. S., Collins, C. C., Johnson, D. I., Delmer, D. P., & Levine, A. (1999). The involvement of hydrogen peroxide in the differentiation of secondary walls in cotton fibers. Plant Physiol, 119, 849–858.

Puysseleyr, V., Hofte, M., & De-Clercq, P. (2011). Ovipositing Orius laevigatus increase tomato resistance against Frankliniella occidentalis feeding by inducing the wound response. Arthropod Plant Interact, 5, 71–80.

Quan, L. J., Zhang, B., Shi, W. W., & Li, H. Y. (2008). Hydrogen peroxide in plants: A versatile molecule of the reactive oxygen species network. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, 50, 2- 18.

Ribeiro, C. W., Carvalho, F. E., Rosa, S. B., Alves-Ferreira, M., Andrade, C. M., Ribeiro-Alves, M., ... & Margis-Pinheiro, M. (2012). Modulation of genes related to specific metabolic pathways in response to cytosolic ascorbate peroxidase knockdown in rice plants. Plant Biology 14: 944-955.

Sagor, G. H., Berberich, T., Takahashi, Y., Niitsu, M., & Kusano, T. (2012). The polyamine spermine protects Arabidopsis from heat stress-induced damage by increasing expression of heat shock-related genes. Transgenic Research, 22, 595-605.

Samuel, M. A., Miles, G. P., & Ellis, B. E. (2000). Ozone treatment rapidly activates MAP kinase signaling in plants. The Plant Journal, 22, 367–376.

Shu, D. F., Wang, L. Y., Duan, M., Deng, Y. S., & Meng, Q. W. (2011). Antisense-mediated depletion of tomato chloroplast glutathione reductase enhances susceptibility to chilling stress. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 49, 1228-1237.

Slesak, I., Libik, M., Karpinska, B., Karpinski, S., & Miszalski, Z. (2007). The role of hydrogen peroxide in regulation of plant metabolism and cellular signaling in response to environmental stresses. Acta Biochimica Polonica, 54, 39-50.

Takahashi, F., Mizoguchi, T., Yoshida, R., Ichimura, K., & Shinozaki, K. (2011). Calmodulin- dependent activation of MAP kinase for ROS homeostasis in Arabidopsis. Molecular Cell, 41, 649-660.

Tamás, L., Valentovičová, K., Halušková, L., Huttová, J., & Mistrík, L. (2009). Effect of cadmium on the distribution of hydroxyl radical, superoxide and hydrogen peroxide in barley root tip. Protoplasma, 236, 67-72.

Tan, J., Wang, C., Xiang, B., Han, R., & Guo, Z. (2013). Hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide mediated cold-and dehydration-induced myo-inositol phosphate synthase that confers multiple resistances to abiotic stresses. Plant, Cell & Environment, 36, 288-299.

Tanou, G., Job, C., Rajjou, L., Arc, E., Belghazi, M., Diamantidis, G., ... & Job, D. (2009). Proteomics reveals the overlapping roles of hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide in the acclimation of citrus plants to salinity. The Plant Journal, 60, 795-804.

Tena, G., Boudsocq, M., & Sheen, J. (2011). Protein kinase signaling networks in plant innate immunity. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 14, 519-529.

Titarenko. E., Rojo, E., León, J., & Sánchez-Serrano, J. J. (1997). JA-dependent and independent signaling pathways control wound-induced gene activation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiology, 115, 817–826.

Toivonen, P. A., Changwen, L., Bach, S., & Delaquis, P. (2012). Modulation of wound- induced hydrogen peroxide and its influence on the fate of Escherichia coli o157:H7 in cut lettuce tissues. Journal Of Food Protection, 75, 2208-2212.

Yoda, H., Fujimura, K., Takahashi, H., Munemura, I., Uchimiya, H., & Sano, H. (2009). Polyamines as a common source of hydrogen peroxide in host- and nonhost hypersensitive response during pathogen infection. Plant Mol Biol, 70, 103–112.

You, J., Zong, W., Li, X., Ning, J., Hu, H., Li, X., ... & Xiong, L. (2013). The SNAC1-targeted gene OsSRO1c modulates stomatal closure and oxidative stress tolerance by regulating hydrogen peroxide in rice. J. Exp. Bot, 64, 569–583.

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

Transposable elements (TEs), also referred to as ‘jumping genes’, are sequences of DNA located in the eukaryotic genome that have the ability to mobilize. This functional mobilization allows TEs to insert at... MORE»
Gene therapy has ceased to be a futuristic dream and instead become a treatment for the present. Somatic cells can be treated with gene replacements or gene fragments to express required proteins and whilst gene therapy was originally aimed at inherited disease, it is now capable of treating a number of acquired problems such as... MORE»
Immediately following the first and only uses of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, President Truman described nuclear stewardship as “an awful responsibility that has fallen to us.”i The decision to use the bombs did clearly demonstrate the operational effectiveness of a new and awesome weapon, as the atomic... MORE»
Sociobiology is a sub-discipline of biology that aims to examine and explain social behavior in terms of evolution. It is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from disciplines including psychology, ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, and population genetics (Wilson 2000). While the term "sociobiology" appeared... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in Biology

2021, Vol. 13 No. 10
Sociobiology is a sub-discipline of biology that aims to examine and explain social behavior in terms of evolution. It is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from disciplines including psychology, ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology... Read Article »
2020, Vol. 12 No. 12
Transposable elements (TEs), also referred to as ‘jumping genes’, are sequences of DNA located in the eukaryotic genome that have the ability to mobilize. This functional mobilization allows TEs to insert at random positions throughout... Read Article »
2016, Vol. 8 No. 08
The Ras/Raf pathway is a crucial cell signaling pathway utilized by eukaryotic cells for growth and proliferation, and it is highly conserved amongst all eukaryotic organisms. Mutations in this pathway lead to uncontrolled growth and proliferation... Read Article »
2015, Vol. 12 No. 1
Published by Discussions
Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) are devices that effectively deliver vaporized liquid nicotine to the lungs and are commercially available as a nicotine replacement therapy that is safer than conventional tobacco smoking. However, there is... Read Article »
2015, Vol. 11 No. 2
Published by Discussions
To maintain sodium (Na+) homeostasis in a hypotonic environment, freshwater teleosts must constantly absorb Na+ through their gills. Teleosts in temperate climates have the extra challenge of living in an environment in which ambient temperatures... Read Article »
2015, Vol. 11 No. 2
Published by Discussions
The increasing level of obesity in the general population of industrialized nations is a major public health concern. While obesity increases morbidity and mortality, increasing body habitus also impacts the utilization and analysis of medical imaging... Read Article »
2015, Vol. 11 No. 2
Published by Discussions
With the advent of antiretroviral therapy, suppressing the HIV-1 virus and stopping the progression of the disease are now possible. Even with long-term antiretroviral therapy, HIV reservoirs remain in individuals. These individuals experience an... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement
How to Use Regression Analysis Effectively
How to Read for Grad School