Although extensive data has described the key role of salicylic acid (SA) in signaling pathogen-induced disease resistance, its function in physiological processes related to cell death is still poorly understood. Recent studies have explored the requirement of SA for mounting the hypersensitive response (HR) against an invading pathogen, where a particular cell death process is activated at the site of attempted infection causing a confined lesion. Biochemical data suggest that SA potentiates the signal pathway for HR by affecting an early phosphorylation-sensitive step preceding the generation of pro-death signals, including those derived from the oxidative burst. Accordingly, the epistatic relationship between cell death and SA accumulation, analyzed in crosses between lesion-mimic mutants (spontaneous lesion formation) and the transgenic nahG line (depleted in SA) places the SA activity in a feedback loop downstream and upstream of cell death. Exciting advances have been made in the identification of cellular protective functions and cell death suppressors that might operate in HR. Moreover, the spatio-temporal patterns of the SA accumulation (non-homogeneous distribution, biphasic kinetics) described in some HR lesions, may also reveal important clues for unraveling the complex cellular network that tightly balances pro- and anti-death functions in the hypersensitive cell death.
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