Plants attract mutualistic animals by offering a reward of nectar. Specifically, floral nectar (FN) is produced to attract pollinators, whereas extrafloral nectar (EFN) mediates indirect defenses through the attraction of mutualist predatory insects to limit herbivory. Nearly 90% of all plant species, including 75% of domesticated crops, benefit from animal-mediated pollination, which is largely facilitated by FN. Moreover, EFN represents one of the few defense mechanisms for which stable effects on plant health and fitness have been demonstrated in multiple systems, and thus plays a crucial role in the resistance phenotype of plants producing it. In spite of its central role in plant-animal interactions, the molecular events involved in the development of both floral and extrafloral nectaries (the glands that produce nectar), as well as the synthesis and secretion of the nectar itself, have been poorly understood until recently. This review will cover major recent developments in the understanding of (1) nectar chemistry and its role in plant-mutualist interactions, (2) the structure and development of nectaries, (3) nectar production, and (4) its regulation by phytohormones.
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V.
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