Plants use an intricate defense system against pests and pathogens, including the production of low molecular mass secondary metabolites with antimicrobial activity, which are synthesized de novo after stress and are collectively known as phytoalexins. In this review, we focus on the biosynthesis and regulation of camalexin, and its role in plant defense. In addition, we detail some of the phytoalexins produced by a range of crop plants from Brassicaceae, Fabaceae, Solanaceae, Vitaceae and Poaceae. This includes the very recently identified kauralexins and zealexins produced by maize, and the biosynthesis and regulation of phytoalexins produced by rice. Molecular approaches are helping to unravel some of the mechanisms and reveal the complexity of these bioactive compounds, including phytoalexin action and metabolism.
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