Send to

Choose Destination
Chem Biol. 1998 Feb;5(2):103-17.

On becoming a parasite: evaluating the role of wall oxidases in parasitic plant development.

Author information

Searle Chemistry Laboratory, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



The temporal and spatial control of the transition from vegetative to parasitic growth is critical to any parasite, but is essential to the sessile parasitic plants. It has been proposed that this transition in Striga spp. is controlled simply by an exuded oxidase that converts host cell-surface phenols into benzoquinones which act as developmental signals that mediate the transition. An understanding of this mechanism may identify the critical molecular events that made possible the evolution of parasitism in plants.


PoxA and PoxB are identified as the only apoplastic phenol oxidases in Striga asiatica seedlings, and the genes encoding them have been cloned and sequenced. These peroxidase enzymes are capable of oxidizing the 60 known inducing phenols into a small set of benzoquinones, and it is these quinones that induce parasitic development. Analysis of the reaction requirements and comparisons to host enzymes, however, lead us to argue that PoxA and PoxB are not necessary for host recognition.


A new model is proposed where constitutive production of an activated oxygen species (in the case of Striga, H2O2) mediates host recognition. This strategy would allow a parasite to exploit abundant host enzymes to produce the diffusible recognition signals by converting a standard host defense into a parasitic offense.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center