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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Who is my neighbor? Volatile cues in plant interactions

Ninkovic, Velemir; Rensing, Merlin; Dahlin, Iris; Markovic, Dimitrije


One of the most important challenges for individual plants is coexistence with their neighbors. To compensate for their sessile lifestyle, plants developed complex and sophisticated chemical systems of communication among each other. Site-specific biotic and abiotic factors constantly alter the physiological activity of plants, which causes them to release various secondary metabolites in their environments. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the most common cues that reflect a plant's current physiological status. In this sense, the identity of its immediate neighbors may have the greatest impact for a plant, as they share the same available resources. Plants constantly monitor and respond to these cues with great sensitivity and discrimination, resulting in specific changes in their growth pattern and adjusting their physiology, morphology, and phenotype accordingly. Those typical competition responses in receivers may increase their fitness as they can be elicited even before the competition takes place. Plant-plant interactions are dynamic and complex as they can include many different and important surrounding cues. A major challenge for all individual plants is detecting and actively responding only to "true" cues that point to real upcoming threat. Such selective responses to highly specific cues embedded in volatile bouquets are of great ecological importance in understanding plant-plant interactions. We have reviewed recent research on the role of VOCs in complex plant-plant interactions in plant-cross kingdom and highlighted their influence on organisms at higher trophic levels.


Adaptation; coexistence; competitive neighbors; growth pattern; neighbor identity; plant communication; volatile organic compounds; herbivore-induced plant volatiles

Published in

Plant Signaling and Behavior
2019, Volume: 14, number: 9, article number: 1634993