Growth-defense tradeoffs in plants: a balancing act to optimize fitness

Mol Plant. 2014 Aug;7(8):1267-1287. doi: 10.1093/mp/ssu049. Epub 2014 Apr 27.


Growth-defense tradeoffs are thought to occur in plants due to resource restrictions, which demand prioritization towards either growth or defense, depending on external and internal factors. These tradeoffs have profound implications in agriculture and natural ecosystems, as both processes are vital for plant survival, reproduction, and, ultimately, plant fitness. While many of the molecular mechanisms underlying growth and defense tradeoffs remain to be elucidated, hormone crosstalk has emerged as a major player in regulating tradeoffs needed to achieve a balance. In this review, we cover recent advances in understanding growth-defense tradeoffs in plants as well as what is known regarding the underlying molecular mechanisms. Specifically, we address evidence supporting the growth-defense tradeoff concept, as well as known interactions between defense signaling and growth signaling. Understanding the molecular basis of these tradeoffs in plants should provide a foundation for the development of breeding strategies that optimize the growth-defense balance to maximize crop yield to meet rising global food and biofuel demands.

Keywords: PAMP; jasmonate; plant growth.; plant hormone; plant immunity; salicylic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Plant Development*
  • Plant Diseases / immunology
  • Plants / immunology*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Growth Hormone