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Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Aug 30;14(9):17781-811. doi: 10.3390/ijms140917781.

Green leaf volatiles: a plant's multifunctional weapon against herbivores and pathogens.

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Department of Plant Physiology, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, Science Park 904, Amsterdam 1098 XH, The Netherlands.


Plants cannot avoid being attacked by an almost infinite number of microorganisms and insects. Consequently, they arm themselves with molecular weapons against their attackers. Plant defense responses are the result of a complex signaling network, in which the hormones jasmonic acid (JA), salicylic acid (SA) and ethylene (ET) are the usual suspects under the magnifying glass when researchers investigate host-pest interactions. However, Green Leaf Volatiles (GLVs), C₆ molecules, which are very quickly produced and/or emitted upon herbivory or pathogen infection by almost every green plant, also play an important role in plant defenses. GLVs are semiochemicals used by insects to find their food or their conspecifics. They have also been reported to be fundamental in indirect defenses and to have a direct effect on pests, but these are not the only roles of GLVs. These volatiles, being probably one of the fastest weapons exploited, are also able to directly elicit or prime plant defense responses. Moreover, GLVs, via crosstalk with phytohormones, mostly JA, can influence the outcome of the plant's defense response against pathogens. For all these reasons GLVs should be considered as co-protagonists in the play between plants and their attackers.

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