Plant–microbe molecular communication


G. Stacey & N. T. Keen Plant–microbe interactions, volume 4 By . xii  +  283 pages. St Paul, MN, USA : The American Phytopathological Society , 1999 . $US 59.00. h/b . ISBN 089054 228 7 .

A variety of topics is covered in this volume, with focus on the molecular communication between plants and micro-organisms. Hanin et al. detail molecular events underlying host-specificity in the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia, within the framework of a discussion of the regulation of rhizobial nodulation genes and their function in the synthesis of lipochitooligosaccharide nodulation factors; there is also information on the biological activity and recognition of Nod factors by host plants. Gabriel’s account of the structure and function of bacterial avirulence genes as exemplified by the plant pathogen Xanthomonas is followed by Fulbright’s lucid introduction to the chestnut blight disease, caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, and a review of current knowledge of the basis of hypovirulence caused by viral infection of the pathogen. Baker & Orlandi, and Wiesbeek & Gerrits discuss, respectively, the roles of active oxygen species in plant defence and pathogenesis, and of iron in biocontrol as a limiting factor in the competition between bacteria in the rhizosphere or in the induced systemic resistance of plants to pathogen infection. A number of overviews complete this volume: a stimulating description by Shirashi et al. of suppressors of plant defence produced by certain plant pathogens, and their role in determining host-specificity; a thorough treatment by Greshoff, interspersed with outlines of strategies and technical aspects, of the identification of plant genes involved in plant–microbe interactions; and a brief description by Rushton & Somssich of the transcriptional regulation of plant genes involved in the response of plants to pathogens.

In their preface to the first volume of this series, the editors give their goals as ‘to chronicle the future research on plant–microbe interactions’ and ‘to prepare the new generation of scientists that will make these future breakthroughs’. Taken as a primer for scientists entering a new area of research, this book will no doubt prove a good reference source for the topics which it covers. Though one should not expect references more recent than 1997, most of the chapters review an extensive (although not comprehensive) list covering early work, and some do better than others. For instance, several do not discuss work published after 1996.

Greshoff’s review of identification of plant genes involved in plant–microbe interactions is perhaps the most up-to-date of the chapters; moreover, because it is a good example of placing a topic in a wider context, it is probably the most stimulating for newcomers. Although it is long, and several figures are not of high quality, it was easier to read than some of the shorter chapters that were little more than compilations of data, essentially lacking conceptual integration and perspectives.

Overall, this volume is a useful reference source for departmental libraries and offers accessible overviews of selected aspects of plant–microbe interactions.