Since its discovery in the early 1960s, abscisic acid (ABA) has received considerable attention as an important phytohormone, and more recently, as a candidate medicinal in humans. In plants it has been shown to regulate important physiological processes such as response to drought stress, and dormancy. The discovery of ABA synthesis in animal cells has generated interest in the possible parallels between its role in plant and animal systems. The importance of this molecule has prompted the development of several methods for the chemical synthesis of ABA, which differ significantly from the biosynthesis of ABA in plants through the mevalonic acid pathway. ABA recognition in plants has been shown to occur at both the intra- and extracellularly but little is known about the perception of ABA by animal cells. A few ABA molecular targets have been identified in vitro (e.g., calcium signaling, G protein-coupled receptors) in both plant and animal systems. A unique finding in mammalian systems, however, is that the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor, PPAR γ, is upregulated by ABA in both in vitro and in vivo studies. Comparison of the human PPAR γ gene network with Arabidopsis ABA-related genes reveal important orthologs between these groups. Also, ABA can ameliorate the symptoms of type II diabetes, targeting PPAR γ in a similar manner as the thiazolidinediones class of anti-diabetic drugs. The use of ABA in the treatment of type II diabetes, offers encouragement for further studies concerning the biomedical applications of ABA.
Abscisic acid, type II diabetes, immune modulation, botanicals, PPARγ
Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Nutrition Group, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.