Abscisic Acid vs. Gibberellins

What's the Difference?

Abscisic acid (ABA) and gibberellins are both plant hormones that play crucial roles in regulating various physiological processes. However, they have contrasting effects on plant growth and development. ABA is primarily associated with stress responses, such as drought and cold tolerance, as well as seed dormancy and stomatal closure. It inhibits cell division and elongation, leading to growth inhibition. On the other hand, gibberellins promote stem elongation, seed germination, and flowering. They stimulate cell division and elongation, resulting in increased plant height and overall growth. While ABA and gibberellins have distinct functions, they often interact and balance each other's effects to maintain optimal plant growth and adaptation to changing environmental conditions.


AttributeAbscisic AcidGibberellins
Chemical StructureCarotenoid-derived sesquiterpenoidTetracyclic diterpenoid
FunctionPlant stress hormone, inhibits growth and developmentPlant growth hormone, promotes growth and development
Role in Seed DormancyInduces and maintains seed dormancyBreaks seed dormancy
Role in GerminationInhibits seed germinationPromotes seed germination
Role in Leaf SenescencePromotes leaf senescenceInhibits leaf senescence
Role in AbscissionPromotes leaf and fruit abscissionInhibits leaf and fruit abscission
TransportPrimarily transported in the xylemTransported in both xylem and phloem
Target TissuesRoots, leaves, and seedsStems, leaves, and seeds

Further Detail


Plant hormones play a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes in plants. Two important plant hormones are Abscisic Acid (ABA) and Gibberellins (GA). While both hormones are involved in plant growth and development, they have distinct attributes and functions. In this article, we will compare the attributes of ABA and GA, highlighting their roles in different plant processes.

Structure and Biosynthesis

ABA and GA differ in their chemical structures and biosynthesis pathways. Abscisic Acid is a sesquiterpenoid compound derived from carotenoids, specifically from the cleavage of a C40 carotenoid precursor. It contains a cyclohexene ring and a carboxylic acid group. On the other hand, Gibberellins are diterpenoid compounds derived from the mevalonic acid pathway. They possess a gibberellin skeleton, which consists of a tetracyclic ring system.

Role in Seed Dormancy and Germination

ABA and GA have opposing effects on seed dormancy and germination. Abscisic Acid plays a crucial role in maintaining seed dormancy by inhibiting germination. It prevents premature germination under unfavorable conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures. ABA achieves this by inhibiting the synthesis of enzymes required for germination and promoting the synthesis of storage proteins that maintain seed viability. In contrast, Gibberellins promote seed germination by breaking seed dormancy. They stimulate the synthesis of hydrolytic enzymes that degrade storage reserves, allowing the embryo to grow and develop.

Regulation of Plant Growth and Development

ABA and GA also play distinct roles in regulating plant growth and development. Abscisic Acid is known as a growth inhibitor, as it slows down or inhibits various growth processes. It reduces cell division and elongation, leading to stunted growth. ABA also promotes leaf senescence and abscission, helping plants conserve water during periods of stress. On the other hand, Gibberellins are growth promoters. They stimulate stem elongation, cell division, and expansion. GA also influences flowering, fruit development, and the formation of reproductive structures in plants.

Response to Environmental Stimuli

ABA and GA exhibit different responses to environmental stimuli. Abscisic Acid is often referred to as a stress hormone, as its levels increase in response to various stress conditions. It helps plants cope with drought, salinity, and cold temperatures by closing stomata, reducing transpiration, and promoting the synthesis of protective compounds. ABA also regulates the plant's response to pathogens and acts as a signaling molecule during stress signaling pathways. In contrast, Gibberellins are more responsive to favorable environmental conditions. They promote growth and development in response to light, temperature, and nutrient availability.

Interaction with Other Hormones

ABA and GA interact with other plant hormones, influencing their effects on plant physiology. Abscisic Acid often acts antagonistically with Gibberellins. ABA inhibits the synthesis and action of Gibberellins, reducing their growth-promoting effects. This interaction helps maintain a balance between growth and stress responses. ABA also interacts with auxins, another important plant hormone, to regulate root development and stomatal closure. On the other hand, Gibberellins interact synergistically with auxins to promote stem elongation and fruit development.


In conclusion, Abscisic Acid and Gibberellins are two important plant hormones with distinct attributes and functions. While ABA is involved in seed dormancy, stress responses, and growth inhibition, GA promotes seed germination, growth promotion, and development. Their different chemical structures, biosynthesis pathways, and responses to environmental stimuli contribute to their diverse roles in plant physiology. Understanding the attributes of ABA and GA is crucial for unraveling the complex regulatory networks that govern plant growth and development.

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