- Plant diseases constitute an emerging threat to global food security. Many of the currently available antimicrobial agents for agriculture are highly toxic and nonbiodegradable and cause extended environmental pollution. Moreover, an increasing number of phytopathogens develop resistance to them. Recently, we have reported on a new family of ultrashort antimicrobial lipopeptides which are composed of only four amino acids linked to fatty acids (A. Makovitzki, D. Avrahami, and Y. Shai, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103:15997-16002, 2006). Here, we investigated the activities in vitro and in planta and the modes of action of these short lipopeptides against plant-pathogenic bacteria and fungi. They act rapidly, at low micromolar concentrations, on the membranes of the microorganisms via a lytic mechanism. In vitro microscopic analysis revealed wide-scale damage to the microorganism's membrane, in addition to inhibition of pathogen growth. In planta potent antifungal activity was demonstrated on cucumber fruits and leaves infected with the pathogen Botrytis cinerea as well as on corn leaves infected with Cochliobolus heterostrophus. Similarly, treatment with the lipopeptides of Arabidopsis leaves infected with the bacterial leaf pathogen Pseudomonas syringae efficiently and rapidly reduced the number of bacteria. Importantly, in contrast to what occurred with many native lipopeptides, no toxicity was observed on the plant tissues. These data suggest that the ultrashort lipopeptides could serve as native-like antimicrobial agents economically feasible for use in plant protection.