Defence on demand: mechanisms behind optimal defence patterns

Meldau, S.; Erb, Matthias; Baldwin, I. T. (2012). Defence on demand: mechanisms behind optimal defence patterns. Annals of Botany, 110(8), pp. 1503-1514. Oxford University Press 10.1093/aob/mcs212

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Background The optimal defence hypothesis (ODH) predicts that tissues that contribute most to a plant's fitness and have the highest probability of being attacked will be the parts best defended against biotic threats, including herbivores. In general, young sink tissues and reproductive structures show stronger induced defence responses after attack from pathogens and herbivores and contain higher basal levels of specialized defensive metabolites than other plant parts. However, the underlying physiological mechanisms responsible for these developmentally regulated defence patterns remain unknown.

Scope This review summarizes current knowledge about optimal defence patterns in above- and below-ground plant tissues, including information on basal and induced defence metabolite accumulation, defensive structures and their regulation by jasmonic acid (JA). Physiological regulations underlying developmental differences of tissues with contrasting defence patterns are highlighted, with a special focus on the role of classical plant growth hormones, including auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins and brassinosteroids, and their interactions with the JA pathway. By synthesizing recent findings about the dual roles of these growth hormones in plant development and defence responses, this review aims to provide a framework for new discoveries on the molecular basis of patterns predicted by the ODH.

Conclusions Almost four decades after its formulation, we are just beginning to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for the patterns of defence allocation predicted by the ODH. A requirement for future advances will be to understand how developmental and defence processes are integrated.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Biotic Interactions
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Erb, Matthias


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)




Oxford University Press




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2015 07:34

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:48

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Optimal defence hypothesis; growth; development; defence; herbivores; pathogens; jasmonic acid; auxin; gibberellins; cytokinins; brassinosteroids; plant–herbivore interactions




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