Using the CODIT model to explain secondary metabolites of xylem in defence systems of temperate trees against decay fungi

H. Morris, A.M. Hietala, S. Jansen, Javier Ribera, Sabine Rosner, K.A. Salmeia, F.W.M.R. Schwarze

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Background In trees, secondary metabolites (SMs) are essential for determining the effectiveness of defence systems against fungi and why defences are sometimes breached. Using the CODIT model (Compartmentalization of Damage/Dysfunction in Trees), we explain defence processes at the cellular level. CODIT is a highly compartmented defence system that relies on the signalling, synthesis and transport of defence compounds through a three-dimensional lattice of parenchyma against the spread of decay fungi in xylem. Scope The model conceptualizes 'walls' that are pre-formed, formed during and formed after wounding events. For sapwood, SMs range in molecular size, which directly affects performance and the response times in which they can be produced. When triggered, high-molecular weight SMs such as suberin and lignin are synthesized slowly (phytoalexins), but can also be in place at the time of wounding (phytoanticipins). In contrast, low-molecular weight phenolic compounds such as flavonoids can be manufactured de novo (phytoalexins) rapidly in response to fungal colonization. De novo production of SMs can be regulated in response to fungal pathogenicity levels. The protective nature of heartwood is partly based on the level of accumulated antimicrobial SMs (phytoanticipins) during the transitionary stage into a normally dead substance. Effectiveness against fungal colonization in heartwood is largely determined by the genetics of the host. Conclusion Here we review recent advances in our understanding of the role of SMs in trees in the context of CODIT, with emphasis on the relationship between defence, carbohydrate availability and the hydraulic system. We also raise the limitations of the CODIT model and suggest its modification, encompassing other defence theory concepts. We envisage the development of a new defence system that is modular based and incorporates all components (and organs) of the tree from micro- to macro-scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-720
Number of pages20
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number5
Publication statusPrint publication - 8 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Decay fungi
  • Heartwood
  • Induced systemic resistance
  • Non-structural carbohydrate (NSC)
  • Parenchyma
  • Plant defence
  • Plant-fungi interactions
  • Sapwood
  • Secondary metabolites (SMs)
  • Secondary xylem
  • Systemic induced resistance
  • Trees
  • Lignin
  • Xylem
  • Fungi


Dive into the research topics of 'Using the CODIT model to explain secondary metabolites of xylem in defence systems of temperate trees against decay fungi'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this