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The understanding of the selection factors that drive chemical diversification of secondary metabolites of constitutive defence systems in plants, such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), is still incomplete. Historically, plants always have been confronted with microorganisms. Long before herbivores existed on this planet, plants had to cope with microbial pathogens. Therefore, plant pathogenic microorganisms may have played an important role in the early evolution of the secondary metabolite diversity. In this review, we discuss the impact that plant-produced PAs have on plant-associated microorganisms. The objective of the review is to present the current knowledge on PAs with respect to antimicrobial activities, adaptation and detoxification by microorganisms, pathogenic fungi, root protection and PA induction. Many in vitro experiments showed effects of PAs on microorganisms. These results point to the potential of microorganisms to be important for the evolution of PAs. However, only a few in vivo studies have been published and support the results of the in vitro studies. In conclusion, the topics pointed out in this review need further exploration by carrying out ecological experiments and field studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhytochemistry Reviews
Journal publication date2011

ID: 213124