Structure, function and evolution of plant disease resistance genes

Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2000 Aug;3(4):278-84. doi: 10.1016/s1369-5266(00)00080-7.


Gene-for-gene plant disease resistance involves two basic processes: perception of pathogen attack, followed by responses to limit disease. Perception involves receptors with high degrees of specificity for pathogen strains, which are encoded by disease resistance genes. Large repertoires of distantly related resistance (R) genes with diverse recognitional specificities are found within a single plant species. The generation of R-gene polymorphism involves gene duplication, followed by DNA-sequence divergence by point mutation, and by deletion and duplication of intragenic DNA repeats encoding blocks of leucine-rich elements. Recombination between related genes reassorts this variation to further diversify gene sequences. Pathogen pressure selects functional resistance specificities and results in the maintenance of R-gene diversity. Recent genome-sequence data reveal that the NBS-LRR (i.e. nucleotide-binding site-leucine-rich repeat) class of R genes represents as much as 1% of the Arabidopsis genome. Experimental data have shown that the LRR has a role in determination of specificity. Mutation experiments, in which R-gene signaling has been dissociated from specificity in constitutive signal mutants, have provided the potential for non-specific resistance to be expressed from pathogen-infection-induced promoters in transgenic plants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Plant / genetics*
  • Genes, Plant / physiology*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Plant Diseases / genetics*
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Plant Diseases / virology
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / microbiology
  • Plants / virology
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Species Specificity