Xylem is a plant vascular tissue that transports water and dissolved minerals from the roots to the rest of the plant. It consists of specialized water-conducting tracheary elements, supporting fibre cells and storage parenchyma cells. Certain plant pathogenic fungi, oomycetes and bacteria have evolved strategies to invade xylem vessels and cause highly destructive vascular wilt diseases that affect the crop production and forest ecosystems worldwide. In this chapter, we consider the molecular mechanisms of root-specific defence responses against vascular wilt pathogens, with an emphasis on the most important and well-studied fungal (Verticillium spp. and Fusarium oxysporum) and bacterial (Xanthomonas spp. and Ralstonia solanacearum) pathogens. In particular, we present the current understanding of plant immune responses, from invasion perception to signal transduction and termination. Furthermore, we address the role of specific transcription factors involved in plant immunity and their regulatory network. We also highlight the crucial roles of phytohormones as signalling molecules in local and systemic defence responses. Finally, we summarize the current knowledge of plant defence responses to xylem-invading pathogens to devise new strategies and methods for controlling these destructive plant pathogens.
Part of the book: Abiotic and Biotic Stress in Plants