Allelochemicals and Signaling Chemicals in Plants

Molecules. 2019 Jul 27;24(15):2737. doi: 10.3390/molecules24152737.


Plants abound with active ingredients. Among these natural constituents, allelochemicals and signaling chemicals that are released into the environments play important roles in regulating the interactions between plants and other organisms. Allelochemicals participate in the defense of plants against microbial attack, herbivore predation, and/or competition with other plants, most notably in allelopathy, which affects the establishment of competing plants. Allelochemicals could be leads for new pesticide discovery efforts. Signaling chemicals are involved in plant neighbor detection or pest identification, and they induce the production and release of plant defensive metabolites. Through the signaling chemicals, plants can either detect or identify competitors, herbivores, or pathogens, and respond by increasing defensive metabolites levels, providing an advantage for their own growth. The plant-organism interactions that are mediated by allelochemicals and signaling chemicals take place both aboveground and belowground. In the case of aboveground interactions, mediated air-borne chemicals are well established. Belowground interactions, particularly in the context of soil-borne chemicals driving signaling interactions, are largely unknown, due to the complexity of plant-soil interactions. The lack of effective and reliable methods of identification and clarification their mode of actions is one of the greatest challenges with soil-borne allelochemicals and signaling chemicals. Recent developments in methodological strategies aim at the quality, quantity, and spatiotemporal dynamics of soil-borne chemicals. This review outlines recent research regarding plant-derived allelochemicals and signaling chemicals, as well as their roles in agricultural pest management. The effort represents a mechanistically exhaustive view of plant-organism interactions that are mediated by allelochemicals and signaling chemicals and provides more realistic insights into potential implications and applications in sustainable agriculture.

Keywords: allelopathy; belowground chemical interactions; chemical defense; non-targeted chemical analysis; pest management; plant neighbor detection; signaling interactions; sustainable agriculture.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allelopathy*
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry
  • Herbivory
  • Pest Control
  • Pheromones / chemistry*
  • Pheromones / pharmacology
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Plant Breeding
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plants / chemistry*


  • Pheromones
  • Phytochemicals