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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

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UR 1264 - MYCSA : Mycologie et securite des aliments


Mycologie & Sécurité des Aliments
INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine
BP 81
33883 Villenave d'Ornon Cedex

Use of Defensins to develop eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic fungicides to control phytopathogenic fungi and their mycotoxins.

28 February 2022

A bibliographic review published in Journal of Fungi

The review was written as a part of the project TickTox, and the PhD work of Valentin Leannec-Rialland

Leannec-Rialland, Valentin; Vessela Atanasova, Sylvain Chereau, Miray Tonk-Rügen, Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz, and Florence Richard-Forget. 2022. "Use of Defensins to Develop Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Synthetic Fungicides to Control Phytopathogenic Fungi and Their Mycotoxins" Journal of Fungi 8, no. 3: 229.


Crops are threatened by numerous fungal diseases that can adversely affect the availability and quality of agricultural commodities. In addition, some of these fungal phytopathogens have the capacity to produce mycotoxins that pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock. To facilitate the transition towards sustainable environmentally friendly agriculture, there is an urgent need to develop innovative methods allowing a reduced use of synthetic fungicides while guaranteeing optimal yields and the safety of the harvests. Several defensins have been reported to display antifungal and even—despite being under-studied—antimycotoxin activities and could be promising natural molecules for the development of control strategies. This review analyses pioneering and recent work addressing the bioactivity of defensins towards fungal phytopathogens; the details of approximately 100 active defensins and defensin-like peptides occurring in plants, mammals, fungi and invertebrates are listed. Moreover, the multi-faceted mechanism of action employed by defensins, the opportunity to optimize large-scale production procedures such as their solubility, stability and toxicity to plants and mammals are discussed. Overall, the knowledge gathered within the present review strongly supports the bright future held by defensin-based plant protection solutions while pointing out the obstacles that still need to be overcome to translate defensin-based in vitro research findings into commercial products.