The important role of cell wall in plant immunity

CBGP researchers review the current knowledge about plant cell wall integrity monitoring systems and their functions in triggering specific disease resistance and growth responses.


Pathogens and pest have devastating consequences in crops, causing up to 30% losses before and after farming. This percentage is extremely worrying in the context of increasing world population, decreasing farming land and water and climate change that would require raising current overall food production by 60% before 2050 to be able to feed a predicted world population of 9.1 billion people.

Scheme showing the structure of the plant cell wall and some of its possible roles in the mechanisms of resistance to pathogens and pests

Fortunately, plants have a robust defence system that allows them to efficiently defend from pathogens and pests. As a consequence, disease is an exception in plant-pathogen or pest interactions. Plant cell wall, a complex cellular structure that surrounds all plant cells, is an important component of plant immunity. However, it has been little taken into account in research in the area of plant-pathogen interaction until recently. Plant cell wall plays a very essential role as a physical barrier that pathogens must overcome to colonize plant cells, but it is also a dynamic structure that is modified during the infection process or in response to environmental stresses, altering its structural integrity. These changes in the integrity of the cell wall cause the release of molecules -known as Damage Associated Molecular Patterns or DAMPs- which are perceived by a complex set of receptors located in cell membranes, activating immune and defence responses. The mechanisms underlying this active role of the plant cell wall in the regulation of plant immunity have been reviewed by researchers from the Centro de Biotecnología y Genómica de Plantas (CBGP) in The Plant Journal. The progress in the understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of plant-mediated immunity by the cell wall could allow the development of agricultural strategies to improve crop resistance. For example, compounds derived from the cell wall (DAMPs) can be used as agrobiological to regulate resistance to diseases and/or pests, or could generate plant varieties with an improved capacity to perceive these DAMPs and thus activate plant immunity more efficiently in situations of infection.

Original Paper:

Bacete, L; Mélida, H; Miedes, E; Molina, A. 2018. "Plant cell wall-mediated immunity: Cell wall changes trigger disease resistance responses". Plant Journal. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13807".