Phytoalexins are antibiotics produced by plants that are under attack. Phytoalexins tend to fall into several classes including terpenoids, glycosteroids and alkaloids; however, researchers often find it convenient to extend the definition to include all phytochemicals that are part of the plant's defensive arsenal.

Phytoalexins produced in plants act as toxins to the attacking organism. They may puncture the cell wall, delay maturation, disrupt metabolism or prevent reproduction of the pathogen in question. However, phytoalexins are often targeted to specific predators; a plant that has anti-insect phytoalexins may not have the ability to repel a fungal attack.

When a plant cell recognizes particles from damaged cells or particles from the pathogen, the plant launches a two-pronged resistance: a general short-term response and a delayed long-term specific response.

As part of the induced resistance, the short-term response, the plant deploys free radicals such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide to kill invading cells. In pathogen interactions, the common short-term response is the hypersensitive response, wherein apoptosis-compromised cells commit suicide in order to create a physical barrier for the invader.

Long-term resistance, or systemic acquired resistance (SAR), involves communication of the damaged tissue with the rest of the plant using plant hormones such as jasmonic acid, ethylene, abscisic acid or salicylic acid. The reception of the signal leads to global changes within the plant, which induce genes that protect from further pathogen intrusion, including enzymes involved in the production of phytoalexins. Often, if jasmonates or ethylene (both gaseous hormones) is released from the wounded tissue, neighboring plants also manufacture phytoalexins in response. For herbivores, common vectors for disease, these and other wound response aromatics seem to act as a warning that the plant is no longer edible. Also, in accordance with the old adage, "an enemy of my enemy is my friend," the aromatics may alert natural enemies of the plant invaders to the presence thereof.

See also

* Resveratrol
* Plant defense against herbivory

External links

* [ Signals Regulating Multiple Responses to Wounding and Herbivores] Guy L. de Bruxelles and Michael R Roberts
* [ The Myriad Plant Responses to Herbivores] Linda L. Walling
* [ Induced Systemic Resistance (ISR) Against Pathogens in the Context of Induced Plant Defences] MARTIN HEIL
* [ Notes from the Underground] Donald R. Strong and Donald A. Phillips
* [ Relationships Among Plants, Insect Herbivores, Pathogens, and Parasitoids Expressed by Secondary Metabolites] Loretta L. Mannix

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  • phytoalexin — [fīt΄ō ə lek′sin] n. [< PHYTO + Gr alexein, to defend] an antibiotic produced by a plant in response to the intrusion of a disease producing agent, esp. a fungus …   English World dictionary

  • Phytoalexin — Phytoalexine (gr. phytos = Pflanze, alekein = abwehren ) sind niedermolekulare, antimikrobielle chemische Verbindungen, die unmittelbar nach einer Infektion durch Mikroorganismen (wie Bakterien oder Pilzen), von der Pflanze produziert werden, um… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • phytoalexin — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary phyt + alexin substance combating infection, from Greek alexein to ward off, protect; akin to Sanskrit rakṣati he protects Date: 1949 any of various antimicrobial chemical substances produced by …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • phytoalexin — /fuy toh euh lek sin/, n. Biochem. any of a class of plant compounds that accumulate at the site of invading microorganisms and confer resistance to disease. [1945 50; PHYTO + ALEXIN] * * * …   Universalium

  • phytoalexin — noun any of several classes of antibiotics produced by plants in response to microorganisms …   Wiktionary

  • Phytoalexin — Phy|to|a|le|xin [↑ phyt u. ↑ Alexin], das; s, e: von Pflanzen aufgrund von Stresseinwirkungen oder Schadorganismenbefall (↑ Peptaibole) gebildete niedermol. Abwehrstoffe mit antimikrobiellen Eigenschaften. Vgl. Phytonzide …   Universal-Lexikon

  • phytoalexin — phy·to·a·lex·in (fi″to ə lekґsin) any of a group of compounds formed in plants in response to fungal infection, physical damage, chemical injury, or a pathogenic process. Phytoalexins inhibit or destroy the invading agent …   Medical dictionary

  • phytoalexin — [ˌfʌɪtəʊə lɛksɪn] noun Botany a substance that is produced by plant tissues in response to contact with a parasite and specifically inhibits the growth of that parasite. Origin 1940s: from phyto + alexin, a name for a class of substances found in …   English new terms dictionary

  • phytoalexin — phy·to·alexin …   English syllables

  • phytoalexin — phy•to•a•lex•in [[t]ˌfaɪ toʊ əˈlɛk sɪn[/t]] n. biochem. bot any of a class of plant compounds that accumulate at the site of invading microorganisms and confer resistance to disease • Etymology: 1945–50; phyto +alexin an immunological complement… …   From formal English to slang

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