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Keywords:

  • excitation energy;
  • light;
  • photosynthesis;
  • plant–pathogen interactions;
  • reactive oxygen species;
  • salicylic acid pathway;
  • signalling

ABSTRACT

Plants grow in a constantly fluctuating environment, which has driven the evolution of a highly flexible metabolism and development necessary for their sessile lifestyle. In contrast to the situation in the natural world, the detailed dissection of the regulatory networks that govern plants’ responses to abiotic insults and their interaction with pathogens have been studied almost exclusively in controlled environments where a single challenge has been applied. However, the question arises of how such pathways operate when the plant is subjected to multiple stresses, especially where the expression of overlapping gene sets and common signalling molecules, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), are implicated. This review will focus on the responsiveness of leaves to their light environment and how this might influence both basal and induced resistance to infection by biotrophic pathogens. While several signalling pathways operate in a complex network of defence responses, the functioning of the salicylic acid (SA) signalling pathway will receive specific consideration. This is because information is becoming available of its role in abiotic stress responses and it dependency on light. This article covers several topics, some of which formerly have received scant attention. These include the effects of infection on photosynthetic performance and carbohydrate metabolism, the parallels between the induction of acclimation to high light and immunity to pathogens, the role of light in the functioning of the SA signalling pathway and the light sensitivity of lesion formation and the use of lesion mimic mutants and transgenic plants. Finally, a model is proposed that attempts to extrapolate these controlled environment-based studies to the functioning of defences against pathogens in a field-grown crop.