What if plants defend themselves against pests ?

For over 30 years, phyto-oxylipins have been at the center of research in biochemistry and plant biology. However, many areas persist in the shadow. In an article published this week in the prestigious journal, Trends in Plant Science, Estelle DEBOEVER, a PhD student at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, demonstrates how the potential of these molecules is still underestimated.

In general, the term “oxylipin” refers to a class of molecules found in almost all living organisms, including mammals and higher plants. In plants, they are renowned for their implications in plants growth and development, but also in response to external stress (drought, change of light, attacks of pathogens or herbivor)e.

Like animals, plants have developed an immune system, certainly very different and more rudimentary [1]. In this system, phyto-oxylipins are presented as potential elicitors which, like vaccines, are argents capable of inducing a defence reaction in the plant exposed to them. In addition, these molecules could have a direct effect on the pathogens attacking the plant, thus making these simple signal molecules a potential source of biopesticides.

It also appears that the plasma membrane of plants is a key element in this defence mechanism. Indeed, in an other study published this year, it was demonstrated by the young researcher and her promoters, Pr. Marie-Laure Fauconnier, Dr. Magali Deleu and Dr. Laurence Lins, that the lipid portion of the plant plasma membrane was a crucial element of the interaction with phyto-oxylipins [2]. Further studies are needed to identify additional lipids involved in these interactions and to highlight common or distinct lipid patterns among pathogen infections.

Moreover, given the obvious similarities between plant and anima oxylipins, it is becoming increasingly clear that organisms would commonly use the oxylipin pathway as a mean of communication to elicit biological responses. Although an exchange between plants and fungi was higthlighted a few years ago [3], nothing is known about interactions with bacteria and everything remains to be discovered in other pathosystems.
These questions are notably the subject of Estelle Deboever's doctoral thesis and the research topics of her promoters.
Oxylipin: A large class of lipid metabolites derived from the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Read the recently published article



[1] Jones, J. D. G. & Dangl, J. L. The plant immune system. Nature 444, 323–329 (2006).
[2] Deleu, M. et al. Linoleic and linolenic acid hydroperoxides interact differentially with biomimetic plant membranes in a lipid specific manner. Colloids Surfaces B Biointerfaces 175, 384–391 (2019).
[3] Christensen, S. A. & Kolomiets, M. V. The lipid language of plant-fungal interactions. Fungal Genet. Biol. 48, 4–14 (2011).

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