Plant breeding for resistance, namely building specific resistance genes into cultivated plants to ensure resistance against certain pathogen species, is a several-decade-long practice. While looking for purposes of failures appearing during the cultivation of varieties created in this way, a plant feature that ensures non-specific reactions ag...ainst effects which evoke biotic stress attracted our attention. We named this plant defense form the general defense reaction. The general defense reaction is a fundamental attribute of the plant kingdom, fulfils the role of plant immune system and manifests itself in cell enlargement and cell division. Plants with a high level general defense reaction endure abiotic stresses as well.
In studying the biochemical background of the interaction of the general defense reaction and transmethylation, we found that transmethylation has important role in warding off both biotic and abiotic stresses. According to our observations, plants possessing high level general defense system are suitable for thorough examination of the process and plant physiological role of transmethylation. Biochemical studies also strengthened our observation, which has been taken on the basis of phenotype, that the general defense system can not be ignored during future plant breeding.
Our observations regarding the symptoms not fitting into, significantly differing from the hypersensitive defense system, which we noticed during the judgment of several plant species, symptoms provoked on several million plants have constituted a unified entity. They have provided evidence for the existence of a different plant defense system.... We called this so far unknown basic response of plants to biotic effects as general defense system. This system defends them from the attack of numerous microbe species in the environment.
The evolutionary intermediate phase between the general and the specific, the two defense systems is the susceptible host—pathogen relation. The vertical resistance system of plants escaping from the susceptible host—pathogen relation, based on specific hypersensitive reaction also suggested the existence of a more original, general defense system and the susceptible host—pathogen relation developed as a result of the collapse of that system.
The evolutionary relation of the two defense systems is proved by the only recessive inheritance of the older general defense system and in the majority of cases dominant hereditary course of the specific defense system. In our experiences, the modifying genes of the recessive general defense system, in most cases, are behind the specific defense systems, which are known to have monogenic dominant hereditary course and react with hypersensitive tissue destruction. This seemingly striking genetic fact is explained by the following: the general defense system less dependent on environmental effects regulates much faster pathophysiological reaction than the specific resistance genes strongly dependant on environmental effects coding dominant hypersensitive reaction.
The general and specific defense reactions, the processes excluding the microbes attacking plants with compacting of cell growth and tissue destruction, which mean two opposite strategies, building on and regulating each other constitute the entity of resistance to plant disease.
With a view to further enhance the reputation of Hungarian spice pepper it was necessary to improve resistance to the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv.vesicatoria, the most dangerous pathogen of pepper varieties. From among the familiar resistance genes in Hungary only the gene Bs-2 could provide sufficient protection again...st the aggressiveness spectrum of the bacterium species X.c.pv. vesicatoria. The first results of the resistance breeding are the spice pepper varieties Kaldom and Kalorez. In addition to the Bs-2 gene attempts are also being made at building in a gds gene into pepper, a gene creating a general defense system, a different strategy towards Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria.
In addition to successes achieved in certain varieties in resistance breeding based on a defense reaction of host plants involving hypersensitive tissue destruction, resistant varieties putting a very strong selection pressure on pathogens have selected more and more aggressive types of pathogens. The never-ending race between plant and pathoge...n resulting from this can only be controlled by a defense system characterised by a different strategy. In each of the plant species that we bred a defence system was found, which contrary to hypersensitive reaction strives to keep the tissues at all costs and is not pathogen specific. This is implied in the term general defense system.
The goal of plant breeders is to improve the resistance of crops against virus, bacterium and fungus pathogens was easiest to achieve by selection for phenotypes displaying the hypersensitive reaction. The resistant plant of that type keeps its health by preventing or delaying the systemization of the pathogen by destruction of cells a...nd tissues of variable size or amputation of the contaminated organs. The faster the reaction of the host plant is the more efficient and economical is the defense, since the extent of tissue destruction decreases proportionally with the speed of reaction.
During a breeding program for resistance carried out on several plant species, mainly vegetables over thirty years, also an alternative defense reaction has been experienced, which fundamentally differs from the hypersensitive reaction. In that reaction the cells and tissues of the host plant being exposed to the pathogen do not die, on the contrary they hinder systemization of the pathogen by tissue thickening. An additional significant difference is that on the contrary to hypersensitive reaction this reaction is less host- or pathogen-specific and works excellently even at high temperature (over 40 °C).