Plant Biotechnology Reports

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 9–26 | Cite as

Plant volatiles as method of communication

  • Amitabha Das
  • Sook-Hee Lee
  • Tae Kyung Hyun
  • Seon-Won Kim
  • Jae-Yean Kim
Review Article


Plants emit volatile compounds that can act as a communication method to insects, neighboring plants and pathogens. Plants respond to leaf and root damage by herbivores and pathogens by emitting these compounds. The volatile compounds can deter the herbivores or pathogens directly or indirectly by attracting their natural enemies to kill them. The simultaneous damage of plants by herbivores and pathogens can influence plant defense. The induced plant volatiles can also make neighboring plants ready for defense or induce defense in parts distant from the damaged area of the same plant. Belowground root herbivory can alter the defense response to aboveground leaf herbivory. In addition, most plants normally emit volatile compounds from their flowers that directly attract foraging mutualistic insects for nectar, which in turn perform the very important function of pollination for subsequent reproduction. The volatile compounds emitted from the floral and vegetative parts of plants belong to three main classes of compounds: terpenoids, phenylpropanoids/benzenoids, and C6-aldehydes (green-leaf volatiles). The volatile phytohormones methyl salicylate and methyl jasmonate serve as important signaling molecules for communication purposes, and interact with each other to optimize the plant defense response. Here we discuss and integrate the current knowledge on all types of communication between plants and insects, neighboring plants and pathogens that are mediated through plant volatiles.


Plant volatiles Terpenoids Phenylpropanoids Green-leaf volatiles Defense Pollination Communication 



This work was supported by Grants (World Class University program R33-10002, NRF-2010-C1AAA001-0029084) through the National Research Foundation of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Next-Generation BioGreen 21 Program (SSAC Grant PJ008184).


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© Korean Society for Plant Biotechnology and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Applied Life Science (BK21-WCU program), Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Research CenterGyeongsang National UniversityJinjuKorea

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