The underestimated role of roots in defense against leaf attackers

Trends Plant Sci. 2009 Dec;14(12):653-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2009.08.006. Epub 2009 Sep 6.


Plants have evolved intricate strategies to withstand attacks by herbivores and pathogens. Although it is known that plants change their primary and secondary metabolism in leaves to resist and tolerate aboveground attack, there is little awareness of the role of roots in these processes. This is surprising given that plant roots are responsible for the synthesis of plant toxins, play an active role in environmental sensing and defense signaling, and serve as dynamic storage organs to allow regrowth. Hence, studying roots is essential for a solid understanding of resistance and tolerance to leaf-feeding insects and pathogens. Here, we highlight this function of roots in plant resistance to aboveground attackers, with a special focus on systemic signaling and insect herbivores.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology*
  • Plant Leaves / parasitology*
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / physiology*


  • Alkaloids