• defense signaling;
  • oxylipin;
  • cyclopentenone;
  • α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds;
  • aldehyde


Compounds containing α,β-unsaturated carbonyl groups are increasingly implicated as potent regulators of gene expression; some are powerful cytotoxins known to accumulate at the site of lesion formation in host–pathogen interactions. We used a robust measurement of photosynthetic efficiency to quantify the toxicity of a variety of lipid derivatives in Arabidopsis leaves. Small α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds (e.g. acrolein and methyl vinyl ketone) were highly active and proved to be potent stimulators of expression of the pathogenesis-related gene HEL (PR4). These small volatile electrophiles were far more active than larger alkenal homologs like 2(E)-hexenal, and activated HEL expression in a manner independent of salicylate, ethylene, and jasmonate production/perception. Electrophile treatment massively increased the levels of unesterified cyclopentenone jasmonates, which themselves are electrophiles. Patterns of gene expression in response to electrophile treatment and in response to avirulent bacteria were compared, which revealed strikingly similar transcript profiles. The results broaden the range of known biologic effects of reactive electrophile species to include the activation of a pathogenesis-related gene (HEL) and genes involved in metabolism. Electrophiles can act as mediators of both genetic and biochemical effects on core defense signal transduction.