Regulation of tradeoffs between plant defenses against pathogens with different lifestyles

Steven H. Spoel, Jessica S. Johnson, Xinnian Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

466 Scopus citations


Plants activate distinct defense responses depending on the lifestyle of the attacker encountered. In these responses, salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA) play important signaling roles. SA induces defense against biotrophic pathogens that feed and reproduce on live host cells, whereas JA activates defense against necrotrophic pathogens that kill host cells for nutrition and reproduction. Cross-talk between these defense signaling pathways has been shown to optimize the response against a single attacker. However, its role in defense against multiple pathogens with distinct lifestyles is unknown. Here we show that infection with biotrophic Pseudomonas syringae, which induces SA-mediated defense, rendered plants more susceptible to the necrotrophic pathogen Alternaria brassicicola by suppression of the JA signaling pathway. This process was partly dependent on the cross-talk modulator NPR1. Surprisingly, this tradeoff was restricted to tissues adjacent to the site of initial infection; A. brassicicola infection in systemic tissue was not affected. Even more surprisingly, tradeoff occurred only with the virulent Pseudomonas strain. Avirulent strains that induced programmed cell death (PCD), an effective plant-resistance mechanism against biotrophs, did not cause suppression of JA-dependent defense. This result might be advantageous to the plant by preventing necrotrophic pathogen growth in tissues undergoing PCD. Our findings show that plants tightly control cross-talk between SA- and JA-dependent defenses in a previously unrecognized spatial and pathogen type-specific fashion. This process allows them to prevent unfavorable signal interactions and maximize their ability to concomitantly fend off multiple pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18842-18847
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number47
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Biotroph
  • Cross-talk
  • Jasmonic acid
  • Necrotroph
  • Salicylic acid


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