Express yourself: Transcriptional regulation of plant innate immunity

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2016 Aug;56:150-162. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 9.


The plant immune system is a complex network of components that function together to sense the presence and activity of potential biotic threats, and integrate these signals into an appropriate output, namely the transcription of genes that activate an immune response that is commensurate with the perceived threat. Given the variety of biotic threats a plant must face the immune response must be plastic, but because an immune response is costly to the plant in terms of energy expenditure and development it must also be under tight control. To meet these needs transcriptional control is exercised at multiple levels. In this article we will review some of the latest developments in understanding how the plant immune response is regulated at the level of transcription. New roles are being discovered for the long-studied WRKY and TGA transcription factor families, while additional critical defense functions are being attributed to TCPs and other transcription factors. Dynamically controlling access to DNA through post-translational modification of histones is emerging as an essential component of priming, maintaining, attenuating, and repressing transcription in response to biotic stress. Unsurprisingly, the plant's transcriptional response is targeted by pathogen effectors, and in turn resistance proteins stand guard over and participate in transcriptional regulation. Together, these multiple layers lead to the observed complexity of the plant transcriptional immune response, with different transcription factors or chromatin components playing a prominent role depending on the plant-pathogen interaction being studied.

Keywords: Chromatin modification; Nucleus; Pathogen effectors; Plant innate immunity; Resistance proteins; Transcriptional regulators.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Plant Immunity / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Histones
  • Transcription Factors