Many plants, both in nature and in agriculture, are resistant to multiple diseases. Although much of the plant innate immunity system provides highly specific resistance, there is emerging evidence to support the hypothesis that some components of plant defense are relatively nonspecific, providing multiple disease resistance (MDR). Understanding MDR is of fundamental and practical interest to plant biologists, pathologists, and breeders. This review takes stock of the available evidence related to the MDR hypothesis. Questions about MDR are considered primarily through the lens of forward genetics, starting at the organismal level and proceeding to the locus level and, finally, to the gene level. At the organismal level, MDR may be controlled by clusters of genes that evolve under diversifying selection, by dispersed, pathogen-specific genes, and/or by individual genes providing MDR. Based on the few MDR loci that are well-understood, MDR is conditioned by diverse mechanisms at the locus and gene levels.


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