, Volume 164, Issue 2, pp 57-64

First online:

Review of innate and specific immunity in plants and animals

  • Marcello IritiAffiliated withPlant Pathology Institute, University of MilanCNR, Plant Virology Institute Email author 
  • , Franco FaoroAffiliated withPlant Pathology Institute, University of MilanCNR, Plant Virology Institute

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Innate immunity represents a trait common to plants and animals, based on the recognition of pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) by the host pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). It is generally assumed that a pathogen strain, or race, may have elaborated mechanisms to suppress, or evade, the PAMP-triggered immunity. Once this plan was successful, the colonization would have been counteracted by an adaptive strategy that a plant cultivar must have evolved as a second line of defence. In this co-evolutionary context, adaptive immunity and host resistance (cultivar-pathogen race/strain-specific) has been differently selected, in animals and plants respectively, to face specialized pathogens. Notwithstanding, plant host resistance, based on matching between resistance (R) and avirulence (avr) genes, represents a form of innate immunity, being R proteins similar to PRRs, although able to recognize specific virulence factors (avr proteins) rather than PAMPs. Besides, despite the lack of adaptive immunity preserved plants from autoimmune disorders, inappropriate plant immune responses may occur, producing some side-effects, in terms of fitness costs of induced resistance and autotoxicity. A set of similar defence responses shared from plants and animals, such as defensins, reactive oxygen species (ROS), oxylipins and programmed cell death (PCD) are briefly described.


Adaptive immunity Autoimmunity Autotoxicity Fitness costs innate immunity SAR