, Volume 236, Issue 3, pp 765–779 | Cite as

Reactive oxygen species and their role in plant defence and cell wall metabolism

  • Jose A. O’BrienEmail author
  • Arsalan DaudiEmail author
  • Vernon S. Butt
  • G. Paul Bolwell
Original Article


Harnessing the toxic properties of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to fight off invading pathogens can be considered a major evolutionary success story. All aerobic organisms have evolved the ability to regulate the levels of these toxic intermediates, whereas some have evolved elaborate signalling pathways to dramatically increase the levels of ROS and use them as weapons in mounting a defence response, a process commonly referred to as the oxidative burst. The balance between steady state levels of ROS and the exponential increase in these levels during the oxidative burst has begun to shed light on complex signalling networks mediated by these molecules. Here, we discuss the different sources of ROS that are present in plant cells and review their role in the oxidative burst. We further describe two well-studied ROS generating systems, the NADPH oxidase and apoplastic peroxidase proteins, and their role as the primary producers of ROS during pathogen invasion. We then discuss what is known about the metabolic and proteomic fluxes that occur in plant cells during the oxidative burst and after pathogen recognition, and try to highlight underlying biochemical processes that may provide more insight on the complex regulation of ROS in plants.


NADPH oxidase Peroxidase Metabolomics Proteomics MAMPs Reactive oxygen species 



AD and GPB were supported by BBSRC grant BB/E021166/1. JAO was supported by the Chilean National Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies. This review is dedicated to the memory of Professor G. Paul Bolwell, D.Sc., who passed away on 13th April 2012.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEghamUK
  2. 2.Department of Plant Systems BiologyVlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie VIBGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Plant Biotechnology and GeneticsGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Plant PathologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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