Brassinosteroids (BRs) are endogenous plant hormones essential for the proper regulation of multiple physiological processes required for normal plant growth and development. Since their discovery more than 30 years ago, extensive research on the mechanisms of BR action using biochemistry, mutant studies, proteomics and genome-wide transcriptome analyses, has helped refine the BR biosynthetic pathway, identify the basic molecular components required to relay the BR signal from perception to gene regulation, and expand the known physiological responses influenced by BRs. These mechanistic advances have helped answer the intriguing question of how BRs can have such dramatic pleiotropic effects on a broad range of diverse developmental pathways and have further pointed to BR interactions with other plant hormones and environmental cues. This chapter briefly reviews historical aspects of BR research and then summarizes the current state of knowledge on BR biosynthesis, metabolism and signal transduction. Recent studies uncovering novel phosphorelays and gene regulatory networks through which BR influences both vegetative and reproductive development are examined and placed in the context of known BR physiological responses including cell elongation and division, vascular differentiation, flowering, pollen development and photomorphogenesis.
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