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Being sessile organisms, plants are continuously challenged by phytopathogenic fungi, contributing the largest share in loss due to plant disease. Plants naturally possess a well-developed and programmed protein-based defense system, capable of producing antimicrobial cationic peptides to ward off pathogen attack. Numerous genes encoding antifungal proteins have been isolated, cloned, sequenced and transgenically expressed against multiple phytopathogenic fungi successfully. Genetic engineering technology has been widely utilized to produce transgenic plants with enhanced resistance against pathogens. Pathogenesis-related proteins (PR-proteins) is a group of the most important inducible defense-related antifungal proteins, including defensins, thionins, osomtin-like proteins, thaumatin-like proteins, chitinases, glucanases, oxalate oxidase or oxalate oxidase-like proteins and lipid transfer proteins. Transgenic plants have been developed by imparting the artificial expression of genes encoding antifungal PR-proteins. The expression of transgenes belonging to a single group of PR-proteins or synergistic action of transgenes from different groups has greatly uplifted the level of defense response in plants against fungi. Transgenic expression of antifungal PR-proteins has led to remarkably enhanced resistance in transgenic plants. In this review, we have summarized the role of PR-proteins in plant defense against fungi and 15 years of success achieved so far to generate a variety of transgenic plants resistant against fungi through overexpression of transgenes from different groups of PR-proteins.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences