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Research article, 2008

Phenolic metabolites in the resistance of northern forest trees to pathogens — past experiences and future prospects

Witzell, Johanna; Martín, Juan A.


Phenolic metabolites are frequently implicated in chemical defense mechanisms against pathogens in woody plants. However, tree breeding programmes for resistance to pathogens and practical tree-protection applications based on these compounds seem to be scarce. To identify gaps in our current knowledge of this subject, we explored some of the recent literature on the involvement of phenolic metabolites in the resistance of northern forest trees (Pinus, Picea, Betula,Populus, and Salix spp.) to pathogens. Although it is evident that the phenolic metabolism of trees is often activated by pathogen attacks, few studies have convincingly established that this induction is due to a specific defense response that is capable of stopping the invading pathogen. The role of constitutive phenolics in the resistance of trees to pathogens has also remained unclear. In future studies, the importance of phenolics in oxidative stress, cell homeostasis and tolerance, and the spatial and temporal localization of phenolics in relation to invading pathogens should be more carefully acknowledged. Possibilities for future studies using advanced methods (e.g., metabolic profiling, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and use of modified tree genotypes) are discussed.


phenolic metabolites; resistance; pathogens; chemical defense; tree-protection; cell homeostasis

Published in

Canadian Journal of Forest Research
2008, number: 38
Publisher: National Research Council Canada

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