A defensin from tomato with dual function in defense and development
Defensins are antimicrobial peptides that are part of the innate immune system, contributing to the first line of defense against invading pathogens. Defensins and defensin-like peptides are functionally diverse, disrupting microbial membranes and acting as ligands for cellular recognition and signaling. Here we show that the tomato defensin DEF2 is expressed during early flower development. Defensin mRNA abundance, peptide expression and processing are differentially regulated in developing flowers. Antisense suppression or constitutive overexpression of DEF2 reduces pollen viability and seed production. Furthermore, overexpression of DEF2 pleiotropically alters the growth of various organs and enhances foliar resistance to the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Partially purified extracts from leaves of a DEF2-overexpressing line inhibited tip growth of B. cinerea. Besides providing insights into regulation of defensin expression, these data demonstrate that plant defensins, like their animal counterparts, can assume multiple functions related to defense and development.