Progress in Parasitic Plant Biology: Host Selection and Nutrient Transfer




Abstract: Host range varies widely among species of parasitic plants. Parasitic plants realize host selection through induction by chemical molecular signals, including germination stimulants and haustoria-inducing factors (HIFs). Research on parasitic plant biology has provided information on germination, haustorium induction, invasion, and haustorial structures and functions. To date, some molecular mechanisms have been suggested to explain how germination stimulants work, involving a chemical change caused by addition of a nucleophilic protein receptor, and direct or indirect stimulation of ethylene generation. Haustorium initiation is induced by HIFs that are generated by HIF-releasing enzymes from the parasite or triggered by redox cycling between electrochemical states of the inducers. Haustorium attachment is non-specific, however, the attachment to a host is facilitated by mucilaginous substances produced by haustorial hairs. Following the attachment, the intrusive cells of parasites penetrate host cells or push their way through the host epidermis and cortex between host cells, and some types of cell wall-degrading enzymes may assist in the penetration process. After the establishment of host-parasite associations, parasitic plants develop special morphological structures (haustoria) and physiological characteristics, such as high transpiration rates, high leaf conductance, and low water potentials in hemiparasites, for nutrient transfer and resource acquisition from their hosts. Therefore, they negatively affect the growth and development and even cause death of their hosts.