The metabolic interplay between plants and phytopathogens

Guangyou Duan, Nils Christian, Jens Schwachtje, Dirk Walther, Oliver Ebenhöh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Plant diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria or fungi cause major economic damage every year and destroy crop yields that could feed millions of people. Only by a thorough understanding of the interaction between plants and phytopathogens can we hope to develop strategies to avoid or treat the outbreak of large-scale crop pests. Here, we studied the interaction of plant-pathogen pairs at the metabolic level. We selected five plant-pathogen pairs, for which both genomes were fully sequenced, and constructed the corresponding genome-scale metabolic networks. We present theoretical investigations of the metabolic interactions and quantify the positive and negative effects a network has on the other when combined into a single plant-pathogen pair network. Merged networks were examined for both the native plant-pathogen pairs as well as all other combinations. Our calculations indicate that the presence of the parasite metabolic networks reduce the ability of the plants to synthesize key biomass precursors. While the producibility of some precursors is reduced in all investigated pairs, others are only impaired in specific plant-pathogen pairs. Interestingly, we found that the specific effects on the host’s metabolism are largely dictated by the pathogen and not by the host plant. We provide graphical network maps for the native plant-pathogen pairs to allow for an interactive interrogation. By exemplifying a systematic reconstruction of metabolic network pairs for five pathogen-host pairs and by outlining various theoretical approaches to study the interaction of plants and phytopathogens on a biochemical level, we demonstrate the potential of investigating pathogen-host interactions from the perspective of interacting metabolic networks that will contribute to furthering our understanding of mechanisms underlying a successful invasion and subsequent establishment of a parasite into a plant host.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • plants
  • pathogens
  • metabolic networks
  • genome
  • enzymes
  • metabolites
  • metabolic impairment
  • visualization


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