Elicitins: Key Molecules in Plant – Pathogen Interactions

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P. Moricováa, L. Luhováa, J. Lochmanb, T. Kašparovskýb, and M. Petřivalskýa

a Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Palacký University, Olomouc; b Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Brno

 

Elicitors, endogenous compounds produced by microbial pathogens, induce defence responses in plants. They rank among chemically nonuniform groups including proteins, glycoproteins, oligo- and polysaccharides and lipids. By multiple mechanisms, elicitors are capable of triggering various modes of plant defence like oxidative burst, hypersensitive response, increased expression of pathogenesis-related proteins and the production of antimicrobial compounds – phytoalexins. Elicitins, secreted by oomycetes from Phytophthora and Pythium spp., are small (10 kDa) protein elicitors structurally similar to lipid-transfer proteins of plant cells and behaving like sterol carrier proteins. In the host plant, elicitins induce a hypersensitive response and development of acquired systemic resistance to many microbial phytopathogens. The review summarizes the current knowledge of the molecular modes of elicitin interaction with plant cells, with a special emphasis on cryptogein as a model elicitin for potential application in the induction of systemic plant resistance.

 

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