Many plant pathogens show interactions with host development. Pathogens may modify plant development according to their nutritional demands. Conversely, plant development influences pathogen growth. Biotrophic pathogens often delay senescence to keep host cells alive, and resistance is achieved by senescence-like processes in the host. Necrotrophic pathogens promote senescence in the host, and preventing early senescence is a resistance strategy of plants. For hemibiotrophic pathogens both patterns may apply. Most signaling pathways are involved in both developmental and defense reactions. Increasing knowledge about the molecular components allows to distinguish signaling branches, cross-talk and regulatory nodes that may influence the outcome of an infection. In this review, recent reports on major molecular players and their role in senescence and in pathogen response are reviewed. Examples of pathosystems with strong developmental implications illustrate the molecular basis of selected control strategies. A study of gene expression in the interaction between the hemibiotrophic vascular pathogen Verticillium longisporum
and its cruciferous hosts shows processes that are fine-tuned to counteract early senescence and to achieve resistance. The complexity of the processes involved reflects the complex genetic control of quantitative disease resistance, and understanding the relationship between disease, development and resistance will support resistance breeding.
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