, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 561-579

The haustorium and the chemistry of host recognition in parasitic angiosperms

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Two parasitic angiosperms,Agalinis purpurea (Scrophulariaceae) andStriga asiatica (Scrophulariaceae), are compared as to the chemical recognition events involved in host selection.Agalinis is a hemiparasite which can mature to seed-set without a host, whereasStriga is a holoparasite and survives for only a very limited time without a host. Both parasites, however, attach to a host through a specialized organ known as the haustorium and regulate the development of this organ through the recognition of chemical factors from host plants. We now describe the discovery of 2,6-dimethoxy-p-benzoquinone (2,6-DMBQ) as an haustoria-inducing principle fromSorghum root extracts. Our investigation of this compound has led us to suggest that one level of host recognition in these parasitic plants is mediated through their enzymatic digestion of the host root surface. Degradation of surface components liberates quinonoid compounds, such as 2,6-DMBQ, which in turn trigger haustorial development.