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Modulation of Host Immunity by Beneficial Microbes

February 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  2
Pages  139 - 150

Christos Zamioudis1 and Corné M. J. Pieterse1,2

1Plant-Microbe Interactions, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 800.56, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands; 2Centre for BioSystems Genomics, P.O. Box 98, 6700 AB Wageningen, The Netherlands

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Accepted 1 October 2011.

In nature, plants abundantly form beneficial associations with soilborne microbes that are important for plant survival and, as such, affect plant biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Classical examples of symbiotic microbes are mycorrhizal fungi that aid in the uptake of water and minerals, and Rhizobium bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen for the plant. Several other types of beneficial soilborne microbes, such as plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria and fungi with biological control activity, can stimulate plant growth by directly suppressing deleterious soilborne pathogens or by priming aboveground plant parts for enhanced defense against foliar pathogens or insect herbivores. The establishment of beneficial associations requires mutual recognition and substantial coordination of plant and microbial responses. A growing body of evidence suggests that beneficial microbes are initially recognized as potential invaders, after which an immune response is triggered, whereas, at later stages of the interaction, mutualists are able to short-circuit plant defense responses to enable successful colonization of host roots. Here, we review our current understanding of how symbiotic and nonsymbiotic beneficial soil microbes modulate the plant immune system and discuss the role of local and systemic defense responses in establishing the delicate balance between the two partners.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society