Ethylene is the simplest unsaturated hydrocarbon, yet it has profound effects on plant growth and development, including many agriculturally important phenomena. Analysis of the mechanisms underlying ethylene biosynthesis and signalling have resulted in the elucidation of multistep mechanisms which at first glance appear simple, but in fact represent several levels of control to tightly regulate the level of production and response. Ethylene biosynthesis represents a two-step process that is regulated at both the transcriptional and post-translational levels, thus enabling plants to control the amount of ethylene produced with regard to promotion of responses such as climacteric flower senescence and fruit ripening. Ethylene production subsequently results in activation of the ethylene response, as ethylene accumulation will trigger the ethylene signalling pathway to activate ethylene-dependent transcription for promotion of the response and for resetting the pathway. A more detailed knowledge of the mechanisms underlying biosynthesis and the ethylene response will ultimately enable new approaches to be developed for control of the initiation and progression of ethylene-dependent developmental processes, many of which are of horticultural significance.

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