Recognition and response in the plant immune system

Annu Rev Genet. 2003:37:579-609. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.37.110801.142628.


Molecular communication between plants and potential pathogens determines the ultimate outcome of their interaction. The directed delivery of microbial molecules into and around the host cell, and the subsequent perception of these by the invaded plant tissue (or lack thereof), determines the difference between disease and disease resistance. In theory, any foreign molecule produced by an invading pathogen could act as an elicitor of the broad physiological and transcriptional re-programming indicative of a plant defense response. The diversity of elicitors recognized by plants seems to support this hypothesis. Additionally, these elicitors are often virulence factors from the pathogen recognized by the host. This recognition, though genetically as simple as a ligand-receptor interaction, may require additional host proteins that are the nominal targets of virulence factor action. Transduction of recognition probably requires regulated protein degradation and results in massive changes in cellular homeostasis, including a programmed cell death known as the hypersensitive response that indicates a successful, if perhaps over-zealous, disease resistance response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plant Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • R protein, Zea mays