Friends in Arms: Flavonoids and the Auxin/Cytokinin Balance in Terrestrialization

Jasmina Kurepa, Timothy E. Shull, Jan A. Smalle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Land plants survive the challenges of new environments by evolving mechanisms that protect them from excess irradiation, nutrient deficiency, and temperature and water availability fluctuations. One such evolved mechanism is the regulation of the shoot/root growth ratio in response to water and nutrient availability by balancing the actions of the hormones auxin and cytokinin. Plant terrestrialization co-occurred with a dramatic expansion in secondary metabolism, particularly with the evolution and establishment of the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway. Flavonoid biosynthesis is responsive to a wide range of stresses, and the numerous synthesized flavonoid species offer two main evolutionary advantages to land plants. First, flavonoids are antioxidants and thus defend plants against those adverse conditions that lead to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species. Second, flavonoids aid in protecting plants against water and nutrient deficiency by modulating root development and establishing symbiotic relations with beneficial soil fungi and bacteria. Here, we review different aspects of the relationships between the auxin/cytokinin module and flavonoids. The current body of knowledge suggests that whereas both auxin and cytokinin regulate flavonoid biosynthesis, flavonoids act to fine-tune only auxin, which in turn regulates cytokinin action. This conclusion agrees with the established master regulatory function of auxin in controlling the shoot/root growth ratio.

Original languageEnglish
Article number517
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • antioxidants
  • auxin
  • cytokinin
  • flavonoids
  • oxidative stress
  • shoot/root ratio
  • symbiosis
  • terrestrialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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