NO to drought-multifunctional role of nitric oxide in plant drought: Do we have all the answers?
Nitric oxide (NO) is a versatile gaseous signaling molecule with increasing significance in plant research due to its association with various stress responses. Although, improved drought tolerance by NO is associated greatly with its ability to reduce stomatal opening and oxidative stress, it can immensely influence other physiological processes such as photosynthesis, proline accumulation and seed germination under water deficit. NO as a free radical can directly alter proteins, enzyme activities, gene transcription, and post-translational modifications that benefit functional recovery from drought. The present drought-mitigating strategies have focused on exogenous application of NO donors for exploring the associated physiological and molecular events, transgenic and mutant studies, but are inadequate. Considering the biphasic effects of NO, a cautious deployment is necessary along with a systematic approach for deciphering positively regulated responses to avoid any cytotoxic effects. Identification of NO target molecules and in-depth analysis of its effects under realistic field drought conditions should be an upmost priority. This detailed synthesis on the role of NO offers new insights on its functions, signaling, regulation, interactions and co-existence with different drought-related events providing future directions for exploiting this molecule towards improving drought tolerance in crop plants.