Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance

Book review: Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance.
Jane Parker, editor. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. 2009. $219.99. 385 pp. ISBN 978-1405175326.

By B. H. Bluhm

Annual Plant Reviews, Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance (Volume 34)Today, research into plant disease resistance is at a critical junction: vast strides have been made over the past two decades to unlock the secrets of innate immunity, yet maddeningly little progress has been made translating these discoveries into practical solutions for production agriculture.

Diverse factors are driving the demand to ameliorate the effects of plant disease, including the world's steadily increasing population and concomitant consumption of agricultural commodities, redoubled efforts to eliminate environmental consequences associated with chemical inputs for plant disease management, new demands for plant-based production from “green” industries such as biofuel production, and the specter of impending climate change with its unpredictable influence on agriculturally important plant diseases.

The ultimate goal of increasing agricultural production through sustainable management of plant diseases serves as a clarion call for scientists pursuing research in plant disease resistance.

Given the rapid rate at which molecular aspects of plant pathogenesis are being elucidated, an up-to-date review of disease resistance at the molecular level is sorely needed and represents a critical gap in the plant sciences literature. Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance (Vol. 34 of Blackwell's Annual Plant Reviews series) addresses that gap directly by providing a detailed review of plant–pathogen interactions, with particular emphasis on areas of study that have progressed the most rapidly.

The stage is set with a thoughtful, narrative description of how molecular concepts in plant disease resistance have emerged and evolved over the past 40 years. Subsequent chapters bring readers abreast of the current molecular-level understanding of how plants defend themselves against bacterial, fungal, and oomycete pathogens (as well as insect pests).

Particular emphasis is placed on pathogen recognition and signal transduction pathways underlying the activation of defense responses and systemic resistance, pathogen effectors and the molecular underpinnings of microbial and insect attack, and the role of small metabolites in pathogenesis, including toxins and plant-produced defense-active compounds and messengers.

Throughout the Molecular Aspects book, informative figures illustrate and augment the text, and each chapter concludes with a concise summary of the current knowledge and an outlook for future research directions.

Throughout this Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance book, the authors have struck a remarkable balance between clarity of message and depth of subject coverage. Although many readers might expect a book on this topic to be excessively information dense and technical, the book is lucid and pleasurable to read.

The book's ease of comprehension is underscored when considering its broad potential audience, including advanced undergraduates interested in plant disease, graduate students pursuing research in molecular aspects of plant pathogenesis (arguably, the book should be required reading for this group), young professionals, and accomplished scientists.

The contributing authors are renowned experts in their respective fields, providing readers a uniquely authoritative perspective on individual aspects of disease resistance. Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance is not an exhaustive text describing the entire history of plant disease resistance—nor was it intended to be.

However, it presents clearly the current understanding of disease resistance at the molecular level. As time passes and knowledge increases, it will serve as an important benchmark for future scientists contemplating how the understanding of plant disease resistance at the molecular level grew and evolved over time.

Book review: Molecular Aspects of Plant Disease Resistance.
Source: Journal of Environmental Quality  2010 39:1533-1533

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