Parasitic Plants: An Overview of Mechanisms by Which Plants Perceive and Respond to Parasites

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2022 May 20;73:433-455. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-102820-100635. Epub 2022 Apr 1.


In contrast to most autotrophic plants, which produce carbohydrates from carbon dioxide using photosynthesis, parasitic plants obtain water and nutrients by parasitizing host plants. Many important crop plants are infested by these heterotrophic plants, leading to severe agricultural loss and reduced food security. Understanding how host plants perceive and resist parasitic plants provides insight into underlying defense mechanisms and the potential for agricultural applications. In this review, we offer a comprehensive overview of the current understanding of host perception of parasitic plants and the pre-attachment and post-attachment defense responses mounted by the host. Since most current research overlooks the role of organ specificity in resistance responses, we also summarize the current understanding and cases of cross-organ parasitism, which indicates nonconventional haustorial connections on other host organs, for example, when stem parasitic plants form haustoria on their host roots. Understanding how different tissue types respond to parasitic plants could provide the potential for developing a universal resistance mechanism in crops against both root and stem parasitic plants.

Keywords: cross-organ parasitism; organ-specific defense; parasitic plants; resistance responses; signal perception.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crops, Agricultural / parasitology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology
  • Parasites*
  • Symbiosis