The role of plant defence proteins in fungal pathogenesis

Mol Plant Pathol. 2007 Sep;8(5):677-700. doi: 10.1111/j.1364-3703.2007.00419.x.


SUMMARY It is becoming increasingly evident that a plant-pathogen interaction may be compared to an open warfare, whose major weapons are proteins synthesized by both organisms. These weapons were gradually developed in what must have been a multimillion-year evolutionary game of ping-pong. The outcome of each battle results in the establishment of resistance or pathogenesis. The plethora of resistance mechanisms exhibited by plants may be grouped into constitutive and inducible, and range from morphological to structural and chemical defences. Most of these mechanisms are defensive, exhibiting a passive role, but some are highly active against pathogens, using as major targets the fungal cell wall, the plasma membrane or intracellular targets. A considerable overlap exists between pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins and antifungal proteins. However, many of the now considered 17 families of PR proteins do not present any known role as antipathogen activity, whereas among the 13 classes of antifungal proteins, most are not PR proteins. Discovery of novel antifungal proteins and peptides continues at a rapid pace. In their long coevolution with plants, phytopathogens have evolved ways to avoid or circumvent the plant defence weaponry. These include protection of fungal structures from plant defence reactions, inhibition of elicitor-induced plant defence responses and suppression of plant defences. A detailed understanding of the molecular events that take place during a plant-pathogen interaction is an essential goal for disease control in the future.