Antagonism between salicylic and abscisic acid reflects early host-pathogen conflict and moulds plant defence responses

Plant J. 2009 Aug;59(3):375-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2009.03875.x. Epub 2009 Apr 24.


The importance of phytohormone balance is increasingly recognized as central to the outcome of plant-pathogen interactions. Recently it has been demonstrated that abscisic acid signalling pathways are utilized by the bacterial phytopathogen Pseudomonas syringae to promote pathogenesis. In this study, we examined the dynamics, inter-relationship and impact of three key acidic phytohormones, salicylic acid, abscisic acid and jasmonic acid, and the bacterial virulence factor, coronatine, during progression of P. syringae infection of Arabidopsis thaliana. We show that levels of SA and ABA, but not JA, appear to play important early roles in determining the outcome of the infection process. SA is required in order to mount a full innate immune responses, while bacterial effectors act rapidly to activate ABA biosynthesis. ABA suppresses inducible innate immune responses by down-regulating SA biosynthesis and SA-mediated defences. Mutant analyses indicated that endogenous ABA levels represent an important reservoir that is necessary for effector suppression of plant-inducible innate defence responses and SA synthesis prior to subsequent pathogen-induced increases in ABA. Enhanced susceptibility due to loss of SA-mediated basal resistance is epistatically dominant over acquired resistance due to ABA deficiency, although ABA also contributes to symptom development. We conclude that pathogen-modulated ABA signalling rapidly antagonizes SA-mediated defences. We predict that hormonal perturbations, either induced or as a result of environmental stress, have a marked impact on pathological outcomes, and we provide a mechanistic basis for understanding priming events in plant defence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / metabolism*
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / immunology
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis / microbiology
  • Cyclopentanes
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Indenes / metabolism
  • Oxylipins
  • Plant Diseases / immunology
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism
  • Pseudomonas syringae / pathogenicity*
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism
  • Salicylic Acid / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Cyclopentanes
  • Indenes
  • Oxylipins
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • RNA, Plant
  • coronatine
  • jasmonic acid
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Salicylic Acid