Plant Defences Against Fungal Attack: Perception and Signal Transduction


Phytopathogenic fungi cause over 75% of all plant diseases. Plants perceive these invaders as ‘nonself ’ via race‐specific/nonspecific factors and surmount physical and chemical responses to counter the invasion. Race‐specific recognition is generally followed by the rapid and massive induction of many of these responses resulting in resistance.

Keywords: plant defence; fungal resistance; R gene signalling; plant–fungus interaction; innate immunity

Figure 1.

Growth of Hyalopernospora parasitica on resistant (R) and susceptible (S) Arabidopsis thaliana hosts. Upper panel shows prolific growth of fungal mycelia on the susceptible ecotype Nössen (right) as opposed to the resistant ecotype Di‐17 (left). Lower panel shows trypan blue stained leaves exhibiting mycelial growth and sporulation in the susceptible but not in the resistant ecotype. (Courtesy Dr. Pradeep Kachroo.)

Figure 2.

Schematic representation of crosstalk between the SA‐, JA‐ and ET‐mediated defence signalling pathways. The figure gives a simplified overview of the various molecular components involved in defence signalling pathways activated by the three hormones SA, JA and ET. Solid lines with arrows indicate activation, while dotted lines with bars indicate repression of downstream events. Molecular components are abbreviated as TF‐transcription factor, FA‐ 18:1 fatty acid, MAPK‐mitogen activated protein kinase, MAPKKK‐ MAPK kinase kinase, WRKY‐WRKY proteins and SCF‐ubiquitin/proteosome complex. Factors that participate in more than one pathway are indicated in grey.



AbuQamar S, Chen X, Dhawan R et al. (2006) Expression profiling and mutant analysis reveals complex regulatory networks involved in Arabidopsis response to Botrytis cinerea. Plant Journal 48: 28–44.

Dangl JL and Jones JD (2001) Plant pathogens and integrated defence responses to infection. Nature 411: 826–833.

Dodds PN, Lawrence GJ, Catanzariti AM et al. (2006) Direct protein interaction underlies gene‐for‐gene specificity and coevolution of the flax resistance genes and flax rust avirulence genes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 103: 8888–8893.

Flor HH (1971) Current status of the gene‐for‐gene concept. Annual Review of Phytopathology 9: 275–296.

Holt BF III, Belkhadir Y and Dangl JL (2005) Antagonistic control of disease resistance protein stability in the plant immune system. Science 309: 929–932.

Ingvardsen C and Veierskov B (2001) Ubiquitin‐ and proteosome–dependent degradation in plants. Physiologia Plantarum 112: 451–459.

Jia Y, McAdams SA, Bryan GT, Hershey HP and Valent B (2000) Direct interaction of resistance gene and avirulence gene products confers rice blast resistance. European Molecular Biology Organisation Journal 19: 4004–4014.

Kachroo A and Kachroo P (2006) Salicylic Acid‐, Jasmonic Acid– and Ethylene–Mediated Regulation of Plant Defense Signaling. In: Jane Setlow (eds) Genetic Engineering: Principles and Methods, vol. 28, pp. 55–84. New York: Springer.

Kachroo A, Venugopal SC, Lapchyk L et al. (2004) Oleic acid levels regulated by glycerolipid metabolism modulate defense gene expression in Arabidopsis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 101: 5152–5157.

Lamb C and Dixon RA (1997) The oxidative burst in plant disease resistance. Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology 48: 251–275.

Liu XQ, Bai XQ, Qian Q et al. (2005) OsWRKY03, a rice transcriptional activator that functions in defense signaling pathway upstream of OsNPR1. Cell Research 15: 593–603.

Manning VA and Ciuffetti LM (2005) Localization of Ptr ToxA produced by Pyrenophora tritici‐repentis reveals protein import into wheat mesophyll cells. Plant Cell 17: 3203–3212.

Petersen M, Brodersen P, Naested H et al. (2000) Arabidopsis map kinase 4 negatively regulates systemic acquired resistance. Cell 103: 1111–1120.

Reyna NS and Yang Y (2006) Molecular analysis of the rice MAP kinase gene family in relation to Magnaporthe grisea infection. Molecular Plant Microbe Interaction 19: 530–540.

Rivas S and Thomas CM (2005) Molecular interactions between tomato and the leaf mold pathogen Cladosporium fulvum. Annual Review of Phytopathology 43: 395–436.

Ron M and Avni A (2004) The receptor for the fungal elicitor ethylene‐inducing xylanase is a member of a resistance‐like gene family. Plant Cell 16: 1604–1615.

Tyler BM (2002) Molecular basis of recognition between Phytophthora pathogens and their hosts. Annual Review of Phytopathology 40: 137–167.

Further Reading

Glazebrook J (2005) Contrasting mechanisms of defense against biotrophic and necrotrophic pathogens. Annual Review of Phytopathology 43: 205–227.

Ingle RA, Carstens M and Denby K (2006) PAMP recognition and the plant–pathogen arms race. BioEssays 28: 880–889.

Toyoda K, Collins NC, Takahashi A and Shirasu K (2002) Resistance and susceptibility of plants to fungal pathogens. Transgenic Research 11: 567–582.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Kachroo, Aardra(Jul 2007) Plant Defences Against Fungal Attack: Perception and Signal Transduction. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003438.pub2]