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PLANT MULTI-TASKING.

Agrawal, Anurag A., Sadik Tuzun, and Elizabeth Bent, editors. 1999. Induced plant defenses against pathogens and herbivores: biochemistry, ecology, and agriculture. The American Phytopathological Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota. ix + 390 p. $55.00, ISBN: 0-89054-242-2.

Ecologists studying plant-herbivore interactions have lagged behind plant pathologists in understanding how plants respond to enemies. This is partly because the induced plant defenses against grazers are a relatively recent discovery, partly because plant pathologists have more readily embraced molecular tools, and partly because ecologists haven't paid attention to plant pathology. Induced plant defenses against pathogens and herbivores attempts to remedy this last situation by juxtaposing chapters regarding plant responses to pathogens with those concerned with induced responses to grazers, an approach that is partly--but not wholly--successful.

Agrawal, Tuzun, and Bent have assembled 18 chapters by 41 well-recognized experts on various aspects of plant responses to pathogens and grazers. The volume begins with an introduction to induced resistance by Rick Karban and Joseph Kuc. The hook is divided into three major sections. The first section ("Biochemistry and mechanisms") is perhaps most useful to the integrative reader, since excellent reviews of the current state of understanding are provided. Felton and Eichenseer's chapter on how insect saliva might manipulate plant responses is especially noteworthy for presenting novel ideas and unpublished observations, a rarity in such volumes. It is clear that molecular biology has not penetrated studies of plant-herbivore interactions to the extent it has in plant-microbe interactions, to the former's detriment. This is changing, but some of the latest molecular results are not discussed in this volume.

The second section ("Ecology and evolution") includes a heterogeneous mix of topics, including more mechanism (Stout and Bostock, Zangerl), modeling (Underwood), and ecological/evolutionary musings (Agrawal, Sabelis et al.). This section reveals the history of these subjects: it is heavily dominated by herbivory studies.

The third section ("Agricultural applications") develops applications of induced plant resistance for agriculture. Here the history of the subject is again revealed as the emphasis swings to pathogens. Several authors describe the economic and other constraints on developing useful pest control from basic science, which should be an eye-opener for some ecologists.

The contributions to this volume are uneven in terms of their clarity, purpose, and success in integrating what we know about plant responses to pest and pathogens. Some authors present research results, others review their own results published elsewhere, and others mainly muse. Only six of the 18 chapters discuss responses to both pathogens and grazers, highlighting their similarities and differences and exposing interesting parallels and directions for future research. The remaining chapters cover one or the other type of response, sometimes presenting up-to-date information but not integrating the two bodies of knowledge. Redundancies among chapters could have been weeded more vigorously. The book generally suffers from the absence of a capstone discussion that would tie these disparate approaches and complex, diverse findings together.

Nevertheless, the chapters contain all the information needed for willing readers to do some integration of their own. For example, the authors make several intriguing observations concerning the striking similarities between pathways associated with plant responses. Hammerschmidt and Smith-Becker point to the activity of salicylic acid in plant and animal tissues and speculate that these SA-dependent pathways are a vestige of a common pathway that evolved before the divergence of the two kingdoms. Other contributors highlight the ubiquitous nature of jasmonic acid signaling in plants, the parallels between plant hypersensitive responses and apoptosis, and the similarity between plant resistance genes and the mammalian interleukin-1 receptor. What fun it is to ponder the evolutionary implications of these similarities!

Publishing volumes aimed at discussing the inducible responses of plants and animals seems to be a growth industry; ignoring pathology books, this is the latest of four texts to cover this and related topics since 1991. There is much overlap among these books and with numerous recent review articles in terms of content and authorship. While new and significant results are published weekly in this area, it may be time to allow these to accumulate before more summaries appear.

This would be a useful volume for researchers and grad students who want to be brought up to date (2000) on mechanisms of induced defenses in plants, especially in finding responses to pathogens and herbivores in the same volume. But that situation will change again in another few years, so the shelf-life of books like this is unpredictable. It may be most interesting to look back on this volume 5 or 10 years from now to see whether plant--herbivore science really learned from plant pathology and whether we developed a real integrated understanding of plant responses to diverse stimuli.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Schultz, Jack C.; Arnold, Tom M.
Publication:Ecology
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2000
Words:776
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