Signaling Organogenesis in Parasitic Angiosperms: Xenognosin Generation, Perception, and Response

J Plant Growth Regul. 2000 Jun;19(2):217-231. doi: 10.1007/s003440000024.


Parasitic strategies within the angiosperms generally succeed by tightly coupling developmental transitions with host recognition signals in a process referred to as xenognosis. Within the Scrophulariaceae, Striga asiatica is among the most studied and best understood parasitic member with respect to the processes of host recognition. Specific xenognosins regulate seed germination, the development of the host attachment organ, the haustorium, and several later stages of host-parasite integration. Here we discuss the signals regulating the development of the haustorium, the critical vegetative/parasitic transition in the life cycle of this obligate parasite. We provide evidence for the localized production of H(2)O(2) at the Striga root tip and suggest how this oxidant is used to exploit host peroxidases and cell wall pectins to generate a simple benzoquinone signal. This benzoquinone xenognosin proves to be both necessary and sufficient for haustorial induction in cultured seedlings. Furthermore, evidence is provided that benzoquinone binding to a redox active site completes a "redox circuit" to mediate signal perception. This redox reaction regulates the time-dependent expression of specific marker genes critical for the development of the mature host attachment organ. These studies extend the emerging series of events necessary for the molecular regulation of organogenesis within the parasitic plants and suggest novel signaling features and molecular mechanisms that may be common across higher plants.