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1.  Differences in Nicotine Metabolism of Two Nicotiana attenuata Herbivores Render Them Differentially Susceptible to a Common Native Predator 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95982.
Nicotiana attenuata is attacked by larvae of both specialist (Manduca sexta) and generalist (Spodoptera exigua) lepidopteran herbivores in its native habitat. Nicotine is one of N. attenuata's important defenses. M. sexta is highly nicotine tolerant; whether cytochrome P450 (CYP)-mediated oxidative detoxification and/or rapid excretion is responsible for its exceptional tolerance remains unknown despite five decades of study. Recently, we demonstrated that M. sexta uses its nicotine-induced CYP6B46 to efflux midgut-nicotine into the hemolymph, facilitating nicotine exhalation that deters predatory wolf spiders (Camptocosa parallela). S. exigua's nicotine metabolism is uninvestigated.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We compared the ability of these two herbivores to metabolize, tolerate and co-opt ingested nicotine for defense against the wolf spider. In addition, we analyzed the spider's excretion to gain insights into its nicotine metabolism. Contrary to previous reports, we found that M. sexta larvae neither accumulate the common nicotine oxides (cotinine, cotinine N-oxide and nicotine N-oxide) nor excrete them faster than nicotine. In M. sexta larvae, ingestion of nicotine as well as its oxides increases the accumulation of CYP6B46 transcripts. In contrast, S. exigua accumulates nicotine oxides and exhales less (66%) nicotine than does M. sexta. Spiders prefer nicotine-fed S. exigua over M. sexta, a preference reversed by topical or headspace nicotine supplementation, but not ingested or topically-coated nicotine oxides, suggesting that externalized nicotine but not the nicotine detoxification products deter spider predation. The spiders also do not accumulate nicotine oxides.
Nicotine oxidation reduces S. exigua's headspace-nicotine and renders it more susceptible to predation by spiders than M. sexta, which exhales unmetabolized nicotine. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that generalist herbivores incur costs of detoxification, which include the ecological costs of greater predation risks, in addition to the previously demonstrated energetic, physiological and metabolic costs.
PMCID: PMC3995989  PMID: 24755743
2.  Herbivory-induced volatiles function as defenses increasing fitness of the native plant Nicotiana attenuata in nature 
eLife  2012;1:e00007.
From an herbivore's first bite, plants release herbivory-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) which can attract enemies of herbivores. However, other animals and competing plants can intercept HIPVs for their own use, and it remains unclear whether HIPVs serve as an indirect defense by increasing fitness for the emitting plant. In a 2-year field study, HIPV-emitting N. attenuata plants produced twice as many buds and flowers as HIPV-silenced plants, but only when native Geocoris spp. predators reduced herbivore loads (by 50%) on HIPV-emitters. In concert with HIPVs, plants also employ antidigestive trypsin protease inhibitors (TPIs), but TPI-producing plants were not fitter than TPI-silenced plants. TPIs weakened a specialist herbivore's behavioral evasive responses to simulated Geocoris spp. attack, indicating that TPIs function against specialists by enhancing indirect defense.
eLife digest
As the population of the world continues to increase beyond 7 billion, and agricultural pests continue to rapidly evolve resistance to pesticides, it is becoming ever more important to cultivate arable land in a way that is sustainable for both humans and the environment. A better understanding of the different mechanisms used by wild plants to deter herbivores will help to increase crop production without harming the environment.
Plants use both direct and indirect methods to fend off herbivores. Direct defense methods include the production of chemicals that are toxic to herbivores or give them indigestion, and the growth of sticky prickles and spines that can injure or kill the herbivore. Indirect defense methods, on the other hand, generally rely on the plant attracting organisms that are either predators or parasites of the herbivore.
Plants produce odors known as herbivory-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) that are thought to offer indirect defense against herbivores by betraying their location to predators and parasites. However, HIPVs also influence other members of the ecological community, sometimes in ways that are detrimental to plants. Moreover, despite 30 years of research, no study has demonstrated that HIPVs increase the fitness of a plant, so it is unclear what they have evolved to do.
Now, a 2-year field study by Schuman et al. has shown plants that emit green leaf volatiles (which are a type of HIPV) produce twice as many buds and flowers—a measure of fitness—as plants that have been genetically engineered not to emit green leaf volatiles. This study was conducted with Nicotiana attenuata, which is a wild tobacco plant that is often targeted by Manduca sexta, a type of moth that is also known as the tobacco hornworm. Green leaf volatiles only increased plants' fitness when various species of Geocoris—a bug that preys on Manduca sexta—reduced the number of herbivores by a factor of two. This is the first evidence that HIPVs offer indirect defense against herbivores.
Schuman et al. also studied the effects of molecules called protease inhibitors that are thought to function as direct defenses by making it difficult for herbivores to digest plants. They found that the ability to produce protease inhibitors did not increase the fitness of plants under herbivore attack; however, tobacco hornworms that had been fed plants containing protease inhibitors were found to be more sluggish in response to attack, which suggests that protease inhibitors can enhance the indirect defenses of plants. The results suggest that employing both direct and indirect defenses—such as a combination of biological pesticides and genetic engineering to produce both HIPVs and protease inhibitors—is the best approach for defending agricultural plants against pests.
PMCID: PMC3466783  PMID: 23066503
Nicotiana attenuata; HIPV (herbivory-induced plant volatile); plant-predator interaction; GLV (green leaf volatile); TPI (trypsin protease inhibitor); indirect defense; Other
3.  Unbiased Transcriptional Comparisons of Generalist and Specialist Herbivores Feeding on Progressively Defenseless Nicotiana attenuata Plants 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8735.
Herbivore feeding elicits dramatic increases in defenses, most of which require jasmonate (JA) signaling, and against which specialist herbivores are thought to be better adapted than generalist herbivores. Unbiased transcriptional analyses of how neonate larvae cope with these induced plant defenses are lacking.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We created cDNA microarrays for Manduca sexta and Heliothis virescens separately, by spotting normalized midgut-specific cDNA libraries created from larvae that fed for 24 hours on MeJA-elicited wild-type (WT) Nicotiana attenuata plants. These microarrays were hybridized with labeled probes from neonates that fed for 24 hours on WT and isogenic plants progressively silenced in JA-mediated defenses (N: nicotine; N/PI: N and trypsin protease inhibitors; JA: all JA-mediated defenses). H. virescens neonates regulated 16 times more genes than did M. sexta neonates when they fed on plants silenced in JA-mediated defenses, and for both species, the greater the number of defenses silenced in the host plant (JA > N/PI > N), the greater were the number of transcripts regulated in the larvae. M. sexta larvae tended to down-regulate while H. virescens larvae up- and down-regulated transcripts from the same functional categories of genes. M. sexta larvae regulated transcripts in a diet-specific manner, while H. virescens larvae regulated a similar suite of transcripts across all diet types.
The observations are consistent with the expectation that specialists are better adapted than generalist herbivores to the defense responses elicited in their host plants by their feeding. While M. sexta larvae appear to be better adapted to N. attenuata's defenses, some of the elicited responses remain effective defenses against both herbivore species. The regulated genes provide novel insights into larval adaptations to N. attenuata's induced defenses, and represent potential targets for plant-mediated RNAi to falsify hypotheses about the process of adaptation.
PMCID: PMC2806910  PMID: 20090945
4.  Nicotiana attenuata MPK4 suppresses a novel JA signaling-independent defense pathway against the specialist insect Manduca sexta but is not required for the resistance to the generalist Spodoptera littoralis 
The New phytologist  2013;199(3):787-799.
How plants tailor their defense responses to attack from different insects remains largely unknown. Here we studied the role of a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), MPK4, in the resistance of a wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata to two herbivores, the specialist Manduca sexta and the generalist Spodoptera littoralis.Stably transformed N. attenuata plants silenced in MPK4 (irMPK4) were generated and characterized for traits important for defense against herbivores.Only the oral secretions (OS) from M. sexta, but not the OS from S. littoralis or mechanical wounding, induced elevated levels of jasmonic acid (JA) in irMPK4 plants compared to the wild-type plants. Moreover, silencing MPK4 highly increased the resistance of N. attenuata to M. sexta in a fashion that was independent of COI1 (CORONATINE INSENSITIVE 1)-mediated JA signaling. Untargeted metabolomic screening identified several new MPK4-dependent putative defensive compounds against M. sexta. In contrast, silencing MPK4 did not affect the growth of the generalist insect S. littoralis, and we propose that this was due to the very low levels of fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) in S. littoralis OS.Thus, MPK4 is likely to be a key signaling element that enables plants to tailor defense responses to different attackers.
PMCID: PMC4996321  PMID: 23672856
herbivore; defense; mitogen-activated protein kinase; Nicotiana attenuata; generalist insect; specialist insect
5.  Pectin methylesterase NaPME1 contributes to the emission of methanol during insect herbivory and to the elicitation of defence responses in Nicotiana attenuata 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(9):2631-2640.
Pectin methylesterases (PMEs) catalyse the demethylation of pectin within plant cell walls, releasing methanol (MeOH) in the process. Thus far, PMEs have been found to be involved in diverse processes such as plant growth and development and defence responses against pathogens. Herbivore attack increases PME expression and activity and MeOH emissions in several plant species. To gain further insights into the role of PMEs in defence responses against herbivores, the expression of a Manduca sexta oral secretion (OS)-inducible PME in Nicotiana attenuata (NaPME1) was silenced by RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene silencing. Silenced lines (ir-pme) showed 50% reduced PME activity in leaves and 70% reduced MeOH emissions after OS elicitation compared with the wild type (WT), demonstrating that the herbivore-induced MeOH emissions originate from the demethylation of pectin by PME. In the initial phase of the OS-induced jasmonic acid (JA) burst (first 30 min), ir-pme lines produced WT levels of this hormone and of jasmonyl-isoleucine (JA-Ile); however, these levels were significantly reduced in the later phase (60–120 min) of the burst. Similarly, suppressed levels of the salicylic acid (SA) burst induced by OS elicitation were observed in ir-pme lines even though wounded ir-pme leaves contained slightly increased amounts of SA. This genotype also presented reduced levels of OS-induced trypsin proteinase inhibitor activity in leaves and consistently increased M. sexta larvae performance compared with WT plants. These latter responses could not be recovered by application of exogenous MeOH. Together, these results indicated that PME contributes, probably indirectly by affecting cell wall properties, to the induction of anti-herbivore responses.
PMCID: PMC2692009  PMID: 19380422
Defence; herbivory; jasmonic acid; Manduca; methanol; Nicotiana; pectin methylesterase; proteinase inhibitor
6.  BAK1 regulates the accumulation of jasmonic acid and the levels of trypsin proteinase inhibitors in Nicotiana attenuata's responses to herbivory 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;62(2):641-652.
BAK1 is a co-receptor of brassinosteroid (BR) receptor BRI1, and plays a well-characterized role in BR signalling. BAK1 also physically interacts with the flagellin receptor FLS2 and regulates pathogen resistance. The role of BAK1 in mediating Nicotiana attenuata's resistance responses to its specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta, was examined here. A virus-induced gene-silencing system was used to generate empty vector (EV) and NaBAK1-silenced plants. The wounding- and herbivory-induced responses were examined on EV and NaBAK1-silenced plants by wounding plants or simulating herbivory by treating wounds with larval oral secretions (OS). After wounding or OS elicitation, NaBAK1-silenced plants showed attenuated jasmonic acid (JA) and JA-isoleucine bursts, phytohormone responses important in mediating plant defences against herbivores. However, these decreased JA and JA-Ile levels did not result from compromised MAPK activity or elevated SA levels. After simulated herbivory, NaBAK1-silenced plants had EV levels of defensive secondary metabolites, namely, trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs), and similar levels of resistance to Manduca sexta larvae. Additional experiments demonstrated that decreased JA levels in NaBAK1-VIGS plants, rather than the enzymatic activity of JAR proteins or Ile levels, were responsible for the reduced JA-Ile levels observed in these plants. Methyl jasmonate application elicited higher levels of TPI activity in NaBAK1-silenced plants than in EV plants, suggesting that silencing NaBAK1 enhances the accumulation of TPIs induced by a given level of JA. Thus NaBAK1 is involved in modulating herbivory-induced JA accumulation and how JA levels are transduced into TPI levels in N. attenuata.
PMCID: PMC3003809  PMID: 20937731
BAK1; defence; herbivory; jasmonic acid (JA); jasmonic acid-isoleucine (JA-Ile); Nicotiana attenuata; SERK; trypsin proteinase inhibitor
7.  Fitness benefits of trypsin proteinase inhibitor expression in Nicotiana attenuata are greater than their costs when plants are attacked. 
BMC Ecology  2004;4:11.
The commonly invoked cost-benefit paradigm, central to most of functional biology, explains why one phenotype cannot be optimally fit in all environments; yet it is rarely tested. Trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs) expression in Nicotiana attenuata is known to decrease plant fitness when plants compete with unattacked conspecifics that do not produce TPIs and also to decrease the performance of attacking herbivores.
In order to determine whether the putative benefits of TPI production outweigh its cost, we transformed N. attenuata to silence endogenous TPI production or restore it in a natural mutant that was unable to produce TPIs. We compared the lifetime seed production of N. attenuata genotypes of the same genetic background with low or no TPI to that of genotypes with high TPI levels on which M. sexta larvae were allowed to feed freely. Unattacked low TPI-producing genotypes produced more seed capsules than did plants with high TPI levels. Caterpillar attack reduced seed capsule production in all genotypes and reversed the pattern of seed capsule production among genotypes. M. sexta larvae attacking genotypes with high TPI activity consumed more TPI, less protein, and move later to the young leaves. Larval masses were negatively correlated (R2 = 0.56) with seed capsule production per plant.
Our results demonstrate that the fitness benefits of TPI production outweigh their costs in greenhouse conditions, when plants are attacked and that despite the ongoing evolutionary interactions between plant and herbivore, TPI-mediated decreases in M. sexta performance translates into a fitness benefit for the plant.
PMCID: PMC514560  PMID: 15304198
8.  Nicotine's Defensive Function in Nature 
PLoS Biology  2004;2(8):e217.
Plants produce metabolites that directly decrease herbivore performance, and as a consequence, herbivores are selected for resistance to these metabolites. To determine whether these metabolites actually function as defenses requires measuring the performance of plants that are altered only in the production of a certain metabolite. To date, the defensive value of most plant resistance traits has not been demonstrated in nature. We transformed native tobacco(Nicotiana attenuata) with a consensus fragment of its two putrescine N-methyl transferase (pmt) genes in either antisense or inverted-repeat (IRpmt) orientations. Only the latter reduced (by greater than 95%) constitutive and inducible nicotine. With D4-nicotinic acid (NA), we demonstrate that silencing pmt inhibits nicotine production, while the excess NA dimerizes to form anatabine. Larvae of the nicotine-adapted herbivore Manduca sexta (tobacco hornworm) grew faster and, like the beetle Diabrotica undecimpunctata, preferred IRpmt plants in choice tests. When planted in their native habitat, IRpmt plants were attacked more frequently and, compared to wild-type plants, lost 3-fold more leaf area from a variety of native herbivores, of which the beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua, and Trimerotropis spp. grasshoppers caused the most damage. These results provide strong evidence that nicotine functions as an efficient defense in nature and highlights the value of transgenic techniques for ecological research.
Transgenic plants confirm the role that nicotine has in protecting tobacco plants from predators in nature and demonstrates the power of transgenic tools in studying ecological interactions in the field
PMCID: PMC509292  PMID: 15314646
9.  Rapid modification of the insect elicitor N-linolenoyl-glutamate via a lipoxygenase-mediated mechanism on Nicotiana attenuata leaves 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:164.
Some plants distinguish mechanical wounding from herbivore attack by recognizing specific constituents of larval oral secretions (OS) which are introduced into plant wounds during feeding. Fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) are major constituents of Manduca sexta OS and strong elicitors of herbivore-induced defense responses in Nicotiana attenuata plants.
The metabolism of one of the major FACs in M. sexta OS, N-linolenoyl-glutamic acid (18:3-Glu), was analyzed on N. attenuata wounded leaf surfaces. Between 50 to 70% of the 18:3-Glu in the OS or of synthetic 18:3-Glu were metabolized within 30 seconds of application to leaf wounds. This heat-labile process did not result in free α-linolenic acid (18:3) and glutamate but in the biogenesis of metabolites both more and less polar than 18:3-Glu. Identification of the major modified forms of this FAC showed that they corresponded to 13-hydroxy-18:3-Glu, 13-hydroperoxy-18:3-Glu and 13-oxo-13:2-Glu. The formation of these metabolites occurred on the wounded leaf surface and it was dependent on lipoxygenase (LOX) activity; plants silenced in the expression of NaLOX2 and NaLOX3 genes showed more than 50% reduced rates of 18:3-Glu conversion and accumulated smaller amounts of the oxygenated derivatives compared to wild-type plants. Similar to 18:3-Glu, 13-oxo-13:2-Glu activated the enhanced accumulation of jasmonic acid (JA) in N. attenuata leaves whereas 13-hydroxy-18:3-Glu did not. Moreover, compared to 18:3-Glu elicitation, 13-oxo-13:2-Glu induced the differential emission of two monoterpene volatiles (β-pinene and an unidentified monoterpene) in irlox2 plants.
The metabolism of one of the major elicitors of herbivore-specific responses in N. attenuata plants, 18:3-Glu, results in the formation of oxidized forms of this FAC by a LOX-dependent mechanism. One of these derivatives, 13-oxo-13:2-Glu, is an active elicitor of JA biosynthesis and differential monoterpene emission.
PMCID: PMC3095298  PMID: 20696061
10.  S-Nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNOR) mediates the biosynthesis of jasmonic acid and ethylene induced by feeding of the insect herbivore Manduca sexta and is important for jasmonate-elicited responses in Nicotiana attenuata 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(13):4605-4616.
S-nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNOR) reduces the nitric oxide (NO) adduct S-nitrosoglutathione (GSNO), an essential reservoir for NO bioactivity. In plants, GSNOR has been found to be important in resistance to bacterial and fungal pathogens, but whether it is also involved in plant–herbivore interactions was not known. Using a virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) system, the activity of GSNOR in a wild tobacco species, Nicotiana attenuata, was knocked down and the function of GSNOR in defence against the insect herbivore Manduca sexta was examined. Silencing GSNOR decreased the herbivory-induced accumulation of jasmonic acid (JA) and ethylene, two important phytohormones regulating plant defence levels, without compromising the activity of two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), salicylic acid-induced protein kinase (SIPK) and wound-induced protein kinase (WIPK). Decreased activity of trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs) were detected in GSNOR-silenced plants after simulated M. sexta feeding and bioassays indicated that GSNOR-silenced plants have elevated susceptibility to M. sexta attack. Furthermore, GSNOR is required for methyl jasmonate (MeJA)-induced accumulation of defence-related secondary metabolites (TPI, caffeoylputrescine, and diterpene glycosides) but is not needed for the transcriptional regulation of JAZ3 (jasmonate ZIM-domain 3) and TD (threonine deaminase), indicating that GSNOR mediates certain but not all jasmonate-inducible responses. This work highlights the important role of GSNOR in plant resistance to herbivory and jasmonate signalling and suggests the potential involvement of NO in plant–herbivore interactions. Our data also suggest that GSNOR could be a target of genetic modification for improving crop resistance to herbivores.
PMCID: PMC3170554  PMID: 21622839
Defence; ethylene; insect herbivore; jasmonic acid; jasmonate signalling; Manduca sexta; Nicotiana attenuata; S-nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNOR); secondary metabolites; trypsin proteinase inhibitor
11.  Tomato Sl3-MMP, a member of the Matrix metalloproteinase family, is required for disease resistance against Botrytis cinerea and Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 
BMC Plant Biology  2015;15:143.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of zinc-dependent endopeptidases. MMPs have been characterized in detail in mammals and shown to play key roles in many physiological and pathological processes. Although MMPs in some plant species have been identified, the function of MMPs in biotic stress responses remains elusive.
A total of five MMP genes were identified in tomato genome. qRT-PCR analysis revealed that expression of Sl-MMP genes was induced with distinct patterns by infection of Botrytis cinerea and Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000 and by treatment with defense-related hormones such as salicylic acid, jasmonic acid and ethylene precursor 1-amino cyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS)-based knockdown of individual Sl-MMPs and disease assays indicated that silencing of Sl3-MMP resulted in reduced resistance to B. cinerea and Pst DC3000, whereas silencing of other four Sl-MMPs did not affect the disease resistance against these two pathogens. The Sl3-MMP-silenced tomato plants responded with increased accumulation of reactive oxygen species and alerted expression of defense genes after infection of B. cinerea. Transient expression of Sl3-MMP in leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana led to an enhanced resistance to B. cinerea and upregulated expression of defense-related genes. Biochemical assays revealed that the recombinant mature Sl3-MMP protein had proteolytic activities in vitro with distinct preferences for specificity of cleavage sites. The Sl3-MMP protein was targeted onto the plasma membrane of plant cells when transiently expressed in onion epidermal cells.
VIGS-based knockdown of Sl3-MMP expression in tomato and gain-of-function transient expression of Sl3-MMP in N. benthamiana demonstrate that Sl3-MMP functions as a positive regulator of defense response against B. cinerea and Pst DC3000.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-015-0536-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4465618  PMID: 26070456
Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum); Matrix metalloproteinases; Botrytis cinerea; Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000; Disease resistance; Proteolysis
12.  Root jasmonates signaling regulates folivore-induced shoot metabolites and increases Nicotiana attenuata resistance 
The New phytologist  2014;202(4):1335-1345.
While JA signaling is widely accepted as mediating plant resistance to herbivores, and the importance of the roots in plant defenses is recently being recognized, the function of root-JA production or perception in aboveground plant defense remains unstudied.To restrain JA impairment to the roots, we micrografted wild type Nicotiana attenuata shoots to the roots of transgenic plants impaired in JA signaling, and evaluated ecological relevant traits under glasshouse and field conditions.Root-JA synthesis, conjugation, and perception are involved in regulating nicotine production in roots. Strikingly, roots regulated leaf JA and ABA levels, which in turn, explain differences in nicotine transport from the roots to the shoot via the transpiration stream. Root-JA signaling also regulates the accumulation of other shoot metabolites; these account for plant resistance against a generalist, Spodoptera littoralis, and a specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta. In N. attenuata’s native habitat, silencing root-JA synthesis increased the shoot damage inflicted by Empoasca leafhoppers, which are able to select natural jasmonate mutants. Silencing JA perception in roots also increased damage by Tupiocoris notatus.Thus, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: root jasmonate signaling profoundly tailors leaf defense responses to aboveground attack.
PMCID: PMC5156298  PMID: 24580101
plant defense; plant tolerance; roots; nicotine; leaf wounding; aboveground herbivores; jasmonates
13.  Jasmonate-dependent induction of polyphenol oxidase activity in tomato foliage is important for defense against Spodoptera exigua but not against Manduca sexta 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:257.
Jasmonates are involved in plant defense, participating in the timely induction of defense responses against insect herbivores from different feeding guilds and with different degrees of host specialization. It is less clear to what extent the induction of plant defense is controlled by different members of the jasmonate family and how specificity of the response is achieved. Using transgenic plants blocked in jasmonic acid (JA) biosynthesis, we previously showed that JA is required for the formation of glandular trichomes and trichome-borne metabolites as constitutive defense traits in tomato, affecting oviposition and feeding behavior of the specialist Manduca sexta. In contrast, JA was not required for the local induction of defense gene expression after wounding. In JA-deficient plants, the JA precursor oxophytodienoic acid (OPDA) substituted as a regulator of defense gene expression maintaining considerable resistance against M. sexta larvae. In this study, we investigate the contribution of JA and OPDA to defense against the generalist herbivore Spodoptera exigua.
S. exigua preferred JA-deficient over wild-type tomato plants as a host for both oviposition and feeding. Feeding preference for JA-deficient plants was caused by constitutively reduced levels of repellent terpenes. Growth and development of the larvae, on the other hand, were controlled by additional JA-dependent defense traits, including the JA-mediated induction of foliar polyphenol oxidase (PPO) activity. PPO induction was more pronounced after S. exigua herbivory as compared to mechanical wounding or M. sexta feeding. The difference was attributed to an elicitor exclusively present in S. exigua oral secretions.
The behavior of M. sexta and S. exigua during oviposition and feeding is controlled by constitutive JA/JA-Ile-dependent defense traits involving mono- and sesquiterpenes in both species, and cis-3-hexenal as an additional chemical cue for M. sexta. The requirement of jasmonates for resistance of tomato plants against caterpillar feeding differs for the two species. While the OPDA-mediated induction of local defense is sufficient to restrict growth and development of M. sexta larvae in absence of JA/JA-Ile, defense against S. exigua relied on additional JA/JA-Ile dependent factors, including the induction of foliar polyphenol oxidase activity in response to S. exigua oral secretions.
PMCID: PMC4189532  PMID: 25261073
Generalist and specialist herbivores; Glucose oxidase; Insect resistance; Jasmonic acid; Oxophytodienoic acid; Plant defense; Polyphenol oxidase; Oral secretions; Terpenes
14.  Methyl jasmonate-elicited herbivore resistance: does MeJA function as a signal without being hydrolyzed to JA? 
Planta  2008;227(5):1161-1168.
Treatment with methyl jasmonate (MeJA) elicits herbivore resistance in many plant species and over-expression of JA carboxyl methyltransferase (JMT) constitutively increases JA-induced responses in Arabidopsis. When wild-type (WT) Nicotiana attenuata plants are treated with MeJA, a rapid transient endogenous JA burst is elicited, which in turn increases levels of nicotine and trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs) and resistance to larvae of the specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta. All of these responses are impaired in plants silenced in lipoxygenase 3 expression (asLOX3) but are restored to WT levels by MeJA treatment. Whether these MeJA-induced responses are directly elicited by MeJA or by its cleavage product, JA, is unknown. Using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS), we silenced MeJA-esterase (NaMJE) expression and found this gene responsible for most of the MeJA-cleaving activity in N. attenuata protein extracts. Silencing NaMJE in asLOX3, but not in WT plants, significantly reduced MeJA-induced nicotine levels and resistance to M. sexta, but not TPI levels. MeJA-induced transcript levels of threonine deaminase (NaTD) and phenylalanine ammonia lyase (NaPAL1) were also decreased in VIGS MJE (asLOX3) plants. Finally the performance of M. sexta larvae that fed on plants treated with JA or MeJA demonstrated that silencing NaMJE inhibited MeJA-induced but not JA-induced resistance in asLOX3 plants. From these results, we conclude that the resistance elicited by MeJA treatment is directly elicited not by MeJA but by its de-methylated product, JA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00425-008-0690-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2756367  PMID: 18214527
MeJA esterase (NaMJE); Methyl jasmonate (MeJA); Jasmonate (JA); Nicotiana attenuata; Manduca sexta
15.  Virus-Induced Gene Silencing-Based Functional Analyses Revealed the Involvement of Several Putative Trehalose-6-Phosphate Synthase/Phosphatase Genes in Disease Resistance against Botrytis cinerea and Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 in Tomato 
Trehalose and its metabolism have been demonstrated to play important roles in control of plant growth, development, and stress responses. However, direct genetic evidence supporting the functions of trehalose and its metabolism in defense response against pathogens is lacking. In the present study, genome-wide characterization of putative trehalose-related genes identified 11 SlTPSs for trehalose-6-phosphate synthase, 8 SlTPPs for trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase and one SlTRE1 for trehalase in tomato genome. Nine SlTPSs, 4 SlTPPs, and SlTRE1 were selected for functional analyses to explore their involvement in tomato disease resistance. Some selected SlTPSs, SlTPPs, and SlTRE1 responded with distinct expression induction patterns to Botrytis cinerea and Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000 as well as to defense signaling hormones (e.g., salicylic acid, jasmonic acid, and a precursor of ethylene). Virus-induced gene silencing-mediated silencing of SlTPS3, SlTPS4, or SlTPS7 led to deregulation of ROS accumulation and attenuated the expression of defense-related genes upon pathogen infection and thus deteriorated the resistance against B. cinerea or Pst DC3000. By contrast, silencing of SlTPS5 or SlTPP2 led to an increased expression of the defense-related genes upon pathogen infection and conferred an increased resistance against Pst DC3000. Silencing of SlTPS3, SlTPS4, SlTPS5, SlTPS7, or SlTPP2 affected trehalose level in tomato plants with or without infection of B. cinerea or Pst DC3000. These results demonstrate that SlTPS3, SlTPS4, SlTPS5, SlTPS7, and SlTPP2 play roles in resistance against B. cinerea and Pst DC3000, implying the importance of trehalose and tis metabolism in regulation of defense response against pathogens in tomato.
PMCID: PMC4972837  PMID: 27540389
Trehalose; trehalose-6-phosphate synthase; trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase (TPP); Botrytis cinerea; Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000; disease resistance; defense response
16.  Diverting the Flux of the JA Pathway in Nicotiana attenuata Compromises the Plant's Defense Metabolism and Fitness in Nature and Glasshouse 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25925.
A plant's inducible defenses against herbivores as well as certain developmental processes are known to be controlled by the jasmonic acid (JA) pathway. We have previously shown that ectopically expressing Arabidopsis thaliana JA O-methyltransferase in Nicotiana attenuata (35S-jmt) strongly reduces the herbivory-elicited jasmonate bursts by acting as metabolic sink that redirects free JA towards methylation; here we examine the consequences of this metabolic sink on N. attenuata's secondary metabolism and performance in nature. In the glasshouse, 35S-jmt plants produced fewer seed capsules due to shorter floral styles, which could be restored to wild type (WT) levels after hand-pollination, and were more susceptible to Manduca sexta larvae attack. When transplanted into the Great Basin Desert in Utah, 35S-jmt plants grew as well as WT empty vector, but were highly attacked by native herbivores of different feeding guilds: leaf chewers, miners, and single cell feeders. This greater susceptibility was strongly associated with reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (hexenylesters, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes) and profound alterations in the production of direct defenses (trypsin proteinase inhibitors [TPI], nicotine, diterpene glycosides [DTGs] and phenylpropanoid-polyamine conjugates) as revealed by a combination of targeted and metabolomics analyses of field collected samples. Complementation experiments with JA-Ile, whose formation is outcompeted in 35S-jmt plants by the methylation reaction, restored the local TPI activation to WT levels and partially complemented nicotine and DTG levels in elicited but not systemic leaves. These findings demonstrate that MeJA, the major JA metabolite in 35S-jmt plants, is not an active signal in defense activation and highlights the value of creating JA sinks to disrupt JA signaling, without interrupting the complete octadecanoid pathway, in order to investigate the regulation of plants' defense metabolism in nature.
PMCID: PMC3189938  PMID: 22022469
17.  Digestive Duet: Midgut Digestive Proteinases of Manduca sexta Ingesting Nicotiana attenuata with Manipulated Trypsin Proteinase Inhibitor Expression 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e2008.
The defensive effect of endogenous trypsin proteinase inhibitors (NaTPIs) on the herbivore Manduca sexta was demonstrated by genetically altering NaTPI production in M. sexta's host plant, Nicotiana attenuata. To understand how this defense works, we studied the effects of NaTPI on M. sexta gut proteinase activity levels in different larval instars of caterpillars feeding freely on untransformed and transformed plants.
Methodology/ Principal Findings
Second and third instars larvae that fed on NaTPI-producing (WT) genotypes were lighter and had less gut proteinase activity compared to those that fed on genotypes with either little or no NaTPI activity. Unexpectedly, NaTPI activity in vitro assays not only inhibited the trypsin sensitive fraction of gut proteinase activity but also halved the NaTPI-insensitive fraction in third-instar larvae. Unable to degrade NaTPI, larvae apparently lacked the means to adapt to NaTPI in their diet. However, caterpillars recovered at least part of their gut proteinase activity when they were transferred from NaTPI-producing host plants to NaTPI-free host plants. In addition extracts of basal leaves inhibited more gut proteinase activity than did extracts of middle stem leaves with the same protein content.
Conclusions/ Significance
Although larvae can minimize the effects of high NaTPI levels by feeding on leaves with high protein and low NaTPI activity, the host plant's endogenous NaTPIs remain an effective defense against M. sexta, inhibiting gut proteinase and affecting larval performance.
PMCID: PMC2292244  PMID: 18431489
18.  An Ecological Analysis of the Herbivory-Elicited JA Burst and Its Metabolism: Plant Memory Processes and Predictions of the Moving Target Model 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4697.
Rapid herbivore-induced jasmonic acid (JA) accumulation is known to mediate many induced defense responses in vascular plants, but little is known about how JA bursts are metabolized and modified in response to repeated elicitations, are propagated throughout elicited leaves, or how they directly influence herbivores.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We found the JA burst in a native population of Nicotiana attenuata to be highly robust despite environmental variation and we examined the JA bursts produced by repeated elicitations with Manduca sexta oral secretions (OS) at whole- and within-leaf spatial scales. Surprisingly, a 2nd OS-elicitation suppressed an expected JA burst at both spatial scales, but subsequent elicitations caused more rapid JA accumulation in elicited tissue. The baseline of induced JA/JA-Ile increased with number of elicitations in discrete intervals. Large veins constrained the spatial spread of JA bursts, leading to heterogeneity within elicited leaves. 1st-instar M. sexta larvae were repelled by elicitations and changed feeding sites. JA conjugated with isoleucine (JA-Ile) translates elicitations into defense production (e.g., TPIs), but conjugation efficiency varied among sectors and depended on NaWRKY3/6 transcription factors. Elicited TPI activity correlated strongly with the heterogeneity of JA/JA-Ile accumulations after a single elicitation, but not repeated elicitations.
Ecologically informed scaling of leaf elicitation reveals the contribution of repeated herbivory events to the formation of plant memory of herbivory and the causes and importance of heterogeneity in induced defense responses. Leaf vasculature, in addition to transmitting long-distance damage cues, creates heterogeneity in JA bursts within attacked leaves that may be difficult for an attacking herbivore to predict. Such unpredictability is a central tenet of the Moving Target Model of defense, which posits that variability in itself is defensive.
PMCID: PMC2650097  PMID: 19277115
19.  Dietary plant phenolic improves survival of bacterial infection in Manduca sexta caterpillars 
Plant phenolics are generally thought to play significant roles in plant defense against herbivores and pathogens. Many plant taxa, including Solanaceae, are rich in phenolic compounds and some insect herbivores have been shown to acquire phenolics from their hosts to use them as protection against their natural enemies. Here we demonstrate that larvae of an insect specialist on Solanaceae, the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta L. (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae), acquire the plant phenolic chlorogenic acid (CA), and other caffeic acid derivatives as they feed on one of their hosts, Nicotiana attenuata L. (Solanaceae), and on artificial diet supplemented with CA. We test the hypothesis that larvae fed on CA-supplemented diet would have better resistance against bacterial infection than larvae fed on a standard CA-free diet by injecting bacteria into the hemocoel of fourth instars. Larvae fed CA-supplemented diet show significantly higher survival of infection with Enterococcus faecalis (Andrewes & Horder) Schleifer & Kilpper-Bälz, but not of infection with the more virulent Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Schroeter) Migula. Larvae fed on CA-supplemented diet possess a constitutively higher number of circulating hemocytes than larvae fed on the standard diet, but we found no other evidence of increased immune system activity, nor were larvae fed on CA-supplemented diet better able to suppress bacterial proliferation early in the infection. Thus, our data suggest an additional defensive function of CA to the direct toxic inhibition of pathogen proliferation in the gut.
PMCID: PMC3570171  PMID: 23420018
chemical defense; acquired plant metabolite; immune defense; Lepidoptera; Solanaceae; Sphingidae; Nicotiana attenuata; tobacco hornworm; Enterococcus faecalis; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; chlorogenic acid
20.  Arabidopsis AtERF15 positively regulates immunity against Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 and Botrytis cinerea 
Upon pathogen infection, activation of immune response requires effective transcriptional reprogramming that regulates inducible expression of a large set of defense genes. A number of ethylene-responsive factor transcription factors have been shown to play critical roles in regulating immune responses in plants. In the present study, we explored the functions of Arabidopsis AtERF15 in immune responses against Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000, a (hemi)biotrophic bacterial pathogen, and Botrytis cinerea, a necrotrophic fungal pathogen. Expression of AtERF15 was induced by infection of Pst DC3000 and B. cinerea and by treatments with salicylic acid (SA) and methyl jasmonate. Biochemical assays demonstrated that AtERF15 is a nucleus-localized transcription activator. The AtERF15-overexpressing (AtERF15-OE) plants displayed enhanced resistance while the AtERF15-RNAi plants exhibited decreased resistance against Pst DC3000 and B. cinerea. Meanwhile, Pst DC3000- or B. cinerea-induced expression of defense genes was upregulated in AtERF15-OE plants but downregulated in AtERF15-RNAi plants, as compared to the expression in wild type plants. In response to infection with B. cinerea, the AtERF15-OE plants accumulated less reactive oxygen species (ROS) while the AtERF15-RNAi plants accumulated more ROS. The flg22- and chitin-induced oxidative burst was abolished and expression levels of the pattern-triggered immunity-responsive genes AtFRK1 and AtWRKY53 were suppressed in AtER15-RNAi plants upon treatment with flg22 or chitin. Furthermore, SA-induced defense response was also partially impaired in the AtERF15-RNAi plants. These data demonstrate that AtERF15 is a positive regulator of multiple layers of the immune responses in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC4559647  PMID: 26388886
Arabidopsis thaliana; ethylene-responsive factor (ERF) transcription factors; immune response; pattern-triggered immunity; Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000; Botrytis cinerea
21.  Feeding-induced rearrangement of green leaf volatiles reduces moth oviposition 
eLife  2013;2:e00421.
The ability to decrypt volatile plant signals is essential if herbivorous insects are to optimize their choice of host plants for their offspring. Green leaf volatiles (GLVs) constitute a widespread group of defensive plant volatiles that convey a herbivory-specific message via their isomeric composition: feeding of the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta converts (Z)-3- to (E)-2-GLVs thereby attracting predatory insects. Here we show that this isomer-coded message is monitored by ovipositing M. sexta females. We detected the isomeric shift in the host plant Datura wrightii and performed functional imaging in the primary olfactory center of M. sexta females with GLV structural isomers. We identified two isomer-specific regions responding to either (Z)-3- or (E)-2-hexenyl acetate. Field experiments demonstrated that ovipositing Manduca moths preferred (Z)-3-perfumed D. wrightii over (E)-2-perfumed plants. These results show that (E)-2-GLVs and/or specific (Z)-3/(E)-2-ratios provide information regarding host plant attack by conspecifics that ovipositing hawkmoths use for host plant selection.
eLife digest
Plants have developed a variety of strategies to defend themselves against herbivorous animals, particularly insects. In addition to mechanical defences such as thorns and spines, plants also produce compounds known as secondary metabolites that keep insects and other herbivores at bay by acting as repellents or toxins. Some of these metabolites are produced on a continuous basis by plants, whereas others—notably compounds called green-leaf volatiles—are only produced once the plant has been attacked. Green-leaf volatiles—which are also responsible for the smell of freshly cut grass—have been observed to provide plants with both direct protection, by inhibiting or repelling herbivores, and indirect protection, by attracting predators of the herbivores themselves.
The hawkmoth Manduca sexta lays its eggs on various plants, including tobacco plants and sacred Datura plants. Once the eggs have hatched into caterpillars, they start eating the leaves of their host plant, and if present in large numbers, these caterpillars can quickly defoliate and destroy it. In an effort to defend itself, the host plant releases green-leaf volatiles to attract various species of Geocoris, and these bugs eat the eggs.
One of the green-leaf volatiles released by tobacco plants is known as (Z)-3-hexenal, but enzymes released by M. sexta caterpillars change some of these molecules into (E)-2-hexenal, which has the same chemical formula but a different structure. The resulting changes in the ‘volatile profile’ alerts Geocoris bugs to the presence of M. sexta eggs and caterpillars on the plant.
Now Allmann et al. show that adult female M. sexta moths can also detect similar changes in the volatile profile emitted by sacred Datura plants that have been damaged by M. sexta caterpillars. This alerts the moths to the fact that Geocoris bugs are likely to be attacking eggs and caterpillars on the plant, or on their way to the plant, so they lay their eggs on other plants. This reduces competition for resources and also reduces the risk of newly laid eggs being eaten by predators. Allmann et al. also identified the neural mechanism that allows moths to detect changes in the volatile profile of plants—the E- and Z- odours lead to different activation patterns in the moth brain.
PMCID: PMC3654435  PMID: 23682312
Manduca sexta; plant volatiles; oviposition; Ca imaging; Datura wrightii; Other
22.  Arabidopsis phospholipase Dβ1 modulates defense responses to bacterial and fungal pathogens 
The New phytologist  2013;199(1):228-240.
Pathogen infection of higher plants often induces a rapid production of phosphatic acid (PA) and changes in lipid profiles, but the enzymatic basis and the function of the lipid change in pathogen-plant interactions are not well understood.Infection of PLDβ1-deficient plants by Pseudomonas syringae pv. DC3000 resulted in less bacterial growth than in wild-type plants, and the effect was more profound in virulent Pst DC3000 than avirulent Pst DC3000 (avrRpt2) infection. The expression levels of salicylic acid (SA)-inducible genes were higher, but those inducible by jasmonic acid (JA) were lower in PLDβ1 mutants than in wild-type plants.However, PLDβ1-deficient plants were more susceptible than wild-type plants to the fungus Botrytis cinerea. The PLDβ1-deficient plants had lower levels of PA, JA and JA-related defense gene expression after B. cinerea inoculation.PLDβ1 plays a positive role in pathogen-induced JA production and plant resistance to necrotrophic fungal pathogen B. cinerea, but a negative role in the SA-dependent signaling pathway and plant tolerance to the infection of biotrophic Pst DC3000. PLDβ1 is responsible for the major part of PA increased in response to necrotrophic B. cinerea and virulent Pst DC3000 infection, but contributes less to the avirulent Pst DC3000 (avrRpt2)-induced PA production.
PMCID: PMC4066384  PMID: 23577648
Botrytis cinerea; Pseudomonas syringae; Arabidopsis thaliana; phospholipase Dβ1; pathogeneses; phosphatidic acid; lysophospholipids; lipid signaling
23.  Tobacco Rattle Virus Vector: A Rapid and Transient Means of Silencing Manduca sexta Genes by Plant Mediated RNA Interference 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31347.
RNAi can be achieved in insect herbivores by feeding them host plants stably transformed to express double stranded RNA (dsRNA) of selected midgut-expressed genes. However, the development of stably transformed plants is a slow and laborious process and here we developed a rapid, reliable and transient method. We used viral vectors to produce dsRNA in the host plant Nicotiana attenuata to transiently silence midgut genes of the plant's lepidopteran specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta. To compare the efficacy of longer, undiced dsRNA for insect gene silencing, we silenced N. attenuata's dicer genes (NaDCL1- 4) in all combinations in a plant stably transformed to express dsRNA targeting an insect gene.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Stable transgenic N. attenuata plants harboring a 312 bp fragment of MsCYP6B46 in an inverted repeat orientation (ir-CYP6B46) were generated to produce CYP6B46 dsRNA. After consuming these plants, transcripts of CYP6B46 were significantly reduced in M. sexta larval midguts. The same 312 bp cDNA was cloned in an antisense orientation into a TRV vector and Agro-infiltrated into N. attenuata plants. When larvae ingested these plants, similar reductions in CYP6B46 transcripts were observed without reducing transcripts of the most closely related MsCYP6B45. We used this transient method to rapidly silence the expression of two additional midgut-expressed MsCYPs. CYP6B46 transcripts were further reduced in midguts, when the larvae fed on ir-CYP6B46 plants transiently silenced for two combinations of NaDCLs (DCL1/3/4 and DCL2/3/4) and contained higher concentrations of longer, undiced CYP6B46 dsRNA.
Both stable and transient expression of CYP6B46 dsRNA in host plants provides a specific and robust means of silencing this gene in M. sexta larvae, but the transient system is better suited for high throughput analyses. Transiently silencing NaDCLs in ir-CYP6B46 plants increased the silencing of MsCYP6B46, suggested that insect's RNAi machinery is more efficient with longer lengths of ingested dsRNA.
PMCID: PMC3270032  PMID: 22312445
24.  The two α-dox genes of Nicotiana attenuata: overlapping but distinct functions in development and stress responses 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:171.
Plant fatty acid α-dioxygenases (α-DOX) are oxylipin-forming enzymes induced by biotic and abiotic stresses, which also participate in developmental processes. In Nicotiana attenuata, herbivory strongly induces the expression of an α-dox1 gene. To determine its role, we silenced its expression using Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation with an inverted repeat construct. More than half of the transformed lines showed a severe dwarf growth phenotype that was very similar to the phenotype of tomato plants mutated at a second α-dox isoform. This led us to identify the corresponding α-dox2 gene in N. attenuata and examine the regulation of both α-dox genes as well as the consequences of their silencing in plant development and anti-herbivore defense.
The transformed lines exhibiting a dwarf growth phenotype are co-silenced for both α-dox genes resulting in a nearly complete suppression of α-DOX activity, which is associated with increases in ABA, JA and anthocyanin levels, all metabolic signatures of oxidative stress. The other lines, only silenced for α-dox1, developed similarly to wild-type plants, exhibited a 40% reduction of α-DOX activity resulting in a 50% reduction of its main product in planta (2-HOT) and showed no signs of oxidative stress. In contrast to α-dox1, the expression of α-dox2 gene is not induced by wounding or elicitors in the oral secretions of Manduca sexta. Instead, α-dox2 is expressed in roots and flowers which lack α-dox1 expression, but both genes are equally regulated during leaf maturation. We transiently silenced α-dox gene copies with gene-specific constructs using virus induced gene silencing and determined the consequences for plant development and phytohormone and 2-HOT levels. While individual silencing of α-dox1 or α-dox2 had no effects on plant growth, the co-suppression of both α-dox genes decreased plant growth. Plants transiently silenced for both α-dox genes had increased constitutive levels of JA and ABA but silencing α-dox1 alone resulted in lower M. sexta-induced levels of JA, 2-HOT and ABA.
Thus, both α-dox isoforms function in the development of N. attenuata. In leaf maturation, the two α-dox genes have overlapping functions, but only α-dox2 is involved in root and flower development and only α-dox1 functions in anti-herbivore defense.
PMCID: PMC3017789  PMID: 20701756
25.  A Genetic Screen Reveals Arabidopsis Stomatal and/or Apoplastic Defenses against Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(10):e1002291.
Bacterial infection of plants often begins with colonization of the plant surface, followed by entry into the plant through wounds and natural openings (such as stomata), multiplication in the intercellular space (apoplast) of the infected tissues, and dissemination of bacteria to other plants. Historically, most studies assess bacterial infection based on final outcomes of disease and/or pathogen growth using whole infected tissues; few studies have genetically distinguished the contribution of different host cell types in response to an infection. The phytotoxin coronatine (COR) is produced by several pathovars of Pseudomonas syringae. COR-deficient mutants of P. s. tomato (Pst) DC3000 are severely compromised in virulence, especially when inoculated onto the plant surface. We report here a genetic screen to identify Arabidopsis mutants that could rescue the virulence of COR-deficient mutant bacteria. Among the susceptible to coronatine-deficient Pst DC3000 (scord) mutants were two that were defective in stomatal closure response, two that were defective in apoplast defense, and four that were defective in both stomatal and apoplast defense. Isolation of these three classes of mutants suggests that stomatal and apoplastic defenses are integrated in plants, but are genetically separable, and that COR is important for Pst DC3000 to overcome both stomatal guard cell- and apoplastic mesophyll cell-based defenses. Of the six mutants defective in bacterium-triggered stomatal closure, three are defective in salicylic acid (SA)-induced stomatal closure, but exhibit normal stomatal closure in response to abscisic acid (ABA), and scord7 is compromised in both SA- and ABA-induced stomatal closure. We have cloned SCORD3, which is required for salicylic acid (SA) biosynthesis, and SCORD5, which encodes an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) protein, AtGCN20/AtABCF3, predicted to be involved in stress-associated protein translation control. Identification of SCORD5 begins to implicate an important role of stress-associated protein translation in stomatal guard cell signaling in response to microbe-associated molecular patterns and bacterial infection.
Author Summary
Pathogen entry into host tissue is a critical first step in causing infection. For foliar bacterial plant pathogens, natural surface openings, such as stomata, are important entry sites into the leaf apoplast (internal intercellular spaces). Recent studies have shown that plants respond to surface-inoculated bacterial pathogens by reducing stomatal aperture as part of the innate immune response to restrict bacterial invasion. Once inside plant tissue, bacteria encounter defenses in the apoplast. To counter host defenses during invasion and in the apoplast, bacterial pathogens produce a variety of virulence factors, such as the polyketide toxin coronatine produced by Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000. Coronatine-deficient Pst DC3000 mutants are compromised in virulence, especially when inoculated onto the plant surface. In this study, we conducted a random genetic screen to identify Arabidopsis mutants that could rescue the virulence of coronatine-deficient mutant bacteria and obtained three classes of Arabidopsis mutants: those that are defective in stomatal closure only, those defective in apoplastic defense only, and those compromised in both stomatal closure and apoplastic defenses. The isolation of these host mutants highlight the important role of COR, a molecular mimic of the plant hormone jasmonate, in overcoming both stomatal and apoplastic defenses during Pst DC3000 infection.
PMCID: PMC3188540  PMID: 21998587

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