Cuticle Biosynthesis in Tomato Leaves Is Developmentally Regulated by Abscisic Acid.

The expansion of aerial organs in plants is coupled with the synthesis and deposition of a hydrophobic cuticle, composed of cutin and waxes, which is critically important in limiting water loss. While the abiotic stress-related hormone abscisic acid (ABA) is known to up-regulate wax accumulation in response to drought, the hormonal regulation of cuticle biosynthesis during organ ontogeny is poorly understood. To address the hypothesis that ABA also mediates cuticle formation during organ development, we assessed the effect of ABA deficiency on cuticle formation in three ABA biosynthesis-impaired tomato mutants. The mutant leaf cuticles were thinner, had structural abnormalities, and had a substantial reduction in levels of cutin. ABA deficiency also consistently resulted in differences in the composition of leaf cutin and cuticular waxes. Exogenous application of ABA partially rescued these phenotypes, confirming that they were a consequence of reduced ABA levels. The ABA mutants also showed reduced expression of genes involved in cutin or wax formation. This difference was again countered by exogenous ABA, further indicating regulation of cuticle biosynthesis by ABA. The fruit cuticles were affected differently by the ABA-associated mutations, but in general were thicker. However, no structural abnormalities were observed, and the cutin and wax compositions were less affected than in leaf cuticles, suggesting that ABA action influences cuticle formation in an organ-dependent manner. These results suggest dual roles for ABA in regulating leaf cuticle formation: one that is fundamentally associated with leaf expansion, independent of abiotic stress, and another that is drought induced.