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Science 318 (5847): 113-116

Copyright © 2007 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Methyl Salicylate Is a Critical Mobile Signal for Plant Systemic Acquired Resistance

Sang-Wook Park, Evans Kaimoyo, Dhirendra Kumar,* Stephen Mosher,{dagger} Daniel F. Klessig{ddagger}

Abstract: In plants, the mobile signal for systemic acquired resistance (SAR), an organism-wide state of enhanced defense to subsequent infections, has been elusive. By stimulating immune responses in mosaic tobacco plants created by grafting different genetic backgrounds, we showed that the methyl salicylate (MeSA) esterase activity of salicylic acid–binding protein 2 (SABP2), which converts MeSA into salicylic acid (SA), is required for SAR signal perception in systemic tissue, the tissue that does not receive the primary (initial) infection. Moreover, in plants expressing mutant SABP2 with unregulated MeSA esterase activity in SAR signal–generating, primary infected leaves, SAR was compromised and the associated increase in MeSA levels was suppressed in primary infected leaves, their phloem exudates, and systemic leaves. SAR was also blocked when SA methyl transferase (which converts SA to MeSA) was silenced in primary infected leaves, and MeSA treatment of lower leaves induced SAR in upper untreated leaves. Therefore, we conclude that MeSA is a SAR signal in tobacco.

Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

* Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614, USA.

{dagger} Present address: Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2, Canada.

{ddagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dfk8{at}

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