To elude or minimize the effects of disease and herbivory, plants rely on both constitutive and inducible defenses. In response to attack by pathogens or pests, plants activate signaling cascades leading to the accumulation of endogenous hormones that trigger the induction of defenses. Salicylic acid (SA), jasmonic acid (JA), and ethylene (E) are plant-specific hormones involved in communicating the attack by many pathogens and pests in a broad range of plant species. SA, JA and E signaling cascades do not activate defenses independently, but rather establish complex interactions that determine the response mounted in each condition. Deployment of defenses is energetically costly, so a trade-off between the activation of resistance against a particular pest or pathogen and down regulation of other defenses is common. Conversely, activation of broad range resistance in response to an initial attack may serve to deter opportunistic agents. Thus, the interaction among SA, JA and E defense signaling pathways can be antagonistic, cooperative or synergistic, depending on the plant species, the combination of organisms attacking the plants, and the developmental and physiological state of the plant. A characterization of the interactions among defense signaling pathways and the determination of the molecular components mediating cross-talk between the different pathways will be essential for the rational design of transgenic plants with increased resistance to disease and/or herbivores without critically compromising other agronomic traits.
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