Salicylic Acid—an Important Signal in Plants

  • Kristin K. Wobbe
  • Daniel F. Klessig
Part of the Plant Gene Research book series (GENE)


Plants are a rich source of compounds used to treat the spectrum of human ailments—from headaches to heart disease to cancer. Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, one of the most widely used drugs today, is plant based. Salicylic acid (SA) or closely related salicylates including methyl salicylate, saligenin (the alcohol of SA) and their glucosides, are found in many plants including the willow. As early as the 4th century B.C., Hippocrates purportedly prescribed willow bark to relieve the pain of childbirth (Rainsford, 1984; Weissman, 1991). In the 19th century acetylsalicylic acid was found to cause less gastrointestinal irritation than SA yet has similar therapeutic properties. Despite their long history, the mechanisms by which SA and other salicylates achieve their wide range of clinical effects (reduction of pain, fever, swelling, blood clotting and the risk of heart attacks and strokes) remain unresolved. In contrast, recent breakthroughs in plant pathology indicate that SA is a key signal molecule in disease resistance and suggest a new mode of action of SA.


Salicylic Acid Tobacco Mosaic Virus Salicylate Hydroxylase Uninoculated Leaf Total Salicylic Acid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin K. Wobbe
  • Daniel F. Klessig

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