Modern research in ecology draws upon a wide range of different techniques and
can offer fresh insights on how to tackle a range of challenges facing the
eLife; natural habitats; diversity; population growth
The rapid expansion of human activities threatens ocean-wide biodiversity. Numerous marine animal populations have declined, yet it remains unclear whether these trends are symptomatic of a chronic accumulation of global marine extinction risk. We present the first systematic analysis of threat for a globally distributed lineage of 1,041 chondrichthyan fishes—sharks, rays, and chimaeras. We estimate that one-quarter are threatened according to IUCN Red List criteria due to overfishing (targeted and incidental). Large-bodied, shallow-water species are at greatest risk and five out of the seven most threatened families are rays. Overall chondrichthyan extinction risk is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates, and only one-third of species are considered safe. Population depletion has occurred throughout the world’s ice-free waters, but is particularly prevalent in the Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle and Mediterranean Sea. Improved management of fisheries and trade is urgently needed to avoid extinctions and promote population recovery.
Ocean ecosystems are under pressure from overfishing, climate change, habitat destruction and pollution. These pressures have led to documented declines of some fishes in some places, such as those living in coral reefs and on the high seas. However, it is not clear whether these population declines are isolated one-off examples or, instead, if they are sufficiently widespread to risk the extinction of large numbers of species.
Most fishes have a skeleton that is made of bone, but sharks and rays have a skeleton that is made of cartilage. A total of 1,041 species has such a skeleton and they are collectively known as the Chondrichthyes. To find out how well these fish are faring, Dulvy et al. worked with more than 300 scientists around the world to assess the conservation status of all 1,041 species.
Based on this, Dulvy et al. estimate that one in four of these species are threatened with extinction, mainly as a result of overfishing. Moreover, just 389 species (37.4% of the total) are considered to be safe, which is the lowest fraction of safe species among all vertebrate groups studied to date.
The largest sharks and rays are in the most peril, especially those living in shallow waters that are accessible to fisheries. A particular problem is the ‘fin trade’: the fins of sharks and shark-like rays are a delicacy in some Asian countries, and more than half of the chondrichthyans that enter the fin trade are under threat. Whether targeted or caught by boats fishing for other species, sharks and rays are used to supply a market that is largely unmonitored and unregulated. Habitat degradation and loss also pose considerable threats, particularly for freshwater sharks and rays.
Dulvy et al. identified three main hotspots where the biodiversity of sharks and rays was particularly seriously threatened—the Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle, Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea—and argue that national and international action is needed to protect them from overfishing.
population biology; extinction risk; biodiversity change; fishes; sharks and rays; life histories; other
Slugs and snails are important herbivores in many ecosystems. They differ from other herbivores by their characteristic mucus trail. As the mucus is secreted at the interface between the plants and the herbivores, its chemical composition may play an essential role in plant responses to slug and snail attack. Based on our current knowledge about host-manipulation strategies employed by pathogens and insects, we hypothesized that mollusks may excrete phytohormone-like substances into their mucus. We therefore screened locomotion mucus from thirteen molluscan herbivores for the presence of the plant defense hormones jasmonic acid (JA), salicylic acid (SA) and abscisic acid (ABA). We found that the locomotion mucus of one slug, Deroceras reticulatum, contained significant amounts of SA, a plant hormone that is known to induce resistance to pathogens and to suppress plant immunity against herbivores. None of the other slugs and snails contained SA or any other hormone in their locomotion mucus. When the mucus of D. reticulatum was applied to wounded leaves of A. thaliana, the promotor of the SA-responsive gene pathogenesis related 1 (PR1) was activated, demonstrating the potential of the mucus to regulate plant defenses. We discuss the potential ecological, agricultural and medical implications of this finding.
The optimal defence hypothesis (ODH) predicts that tissues that contribute most to a plant's fitness and have the highest probability of being attacked will be the parts best defended against biotic threats, including herbivores. In general, young sink tissues and reproductive structures show stronger induced defence responses after attack from pathogens and herbivores and contain higher basal levels of specialized defensive metabolites than other plant parts. However, the underlying physiological mechanisms responsible for these developmentally regulated defence patterns remain unknown.
This review summarizes current knowledge about optimal defence patterns in above- and below-ground plant tissues, including information on basal and induced defence metabolite accumulation, defensive structures and their regulation by jasmonic acid (JA). Physiological regulations underlying developmental differences of tissues with contrasting defence patterns are highlighted, with a special focus on the role of classical plant growth hormones, including auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins and brassinosteroids, and their interactions with the JA pathway. By synthesizing recent findings about the dual roles of these growth hormones in plant development and defence responses, this review aims to provide a framework for new discoveries on the molecular basis of patterns predicted by the ODH.
Almost four decades after its formulation, we are just beginning to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for the patterns of defence allocation predicted by the ODH. A requirement for future advances will be to understand how developmental and defence processes are integrated.
Optimal defence hypothesis; growth; development; defence; herbivores; pathogens; jasmonic acid; auxin; gibberellins; cytokinins; brassinosteroids; plant–herbivore interactions
The optimal defense hypothesis (ODH) provides a functional explanation for the inhomogeneous distribution of defensive structures and defense metabolites throughout a plant’s body: tissues that are most valuable in terms of fitness and have the highest probability of attack are generally the best defended. In a previous review,1 we argue that ontogenically-controlled accumulations of defense metabolites are likely regulated through an integration of developmental and defense signaling pathways. In this addendum, we extend the discussion of ODH patterns by including the recent discoveries of circadian clock-controlled defenses in plants.
optimal defense hypothesis; circadian clock; jasmonic acid; herbivory; Nicotiana attenuata
Nicotiana attenuata HSPRO (NaHSPRO) is a negative regulator of seedling growth promoted by the fungus Piriformospora indica. Homologs of NaHSPRO in Arabidopsis thaliana (i.e., AtHSPRO1 and AtHSPRO2) are known to physically interact with the AKINβγ subunit of the SnRK1 complex.2 To investigate whether NaHSPRO is associated with SnRK1 function during the stimulation of seedling growth by P. indica, we studied N. attenuata plants silenced in the expression of NaGAL83 (as-gal83 plants)—a gene that encodes for the regulatory β-subunit of SnRK1—and plants silenced in the expression of both NaHSPRO and NaGAL83 (ir-hspro/as-gal83 plants). The results showed that P. indica differentially stimulated the growth of both as-gal83 and ir-hspro/as-gal83 seedlings compared with control seedlings, with a magnitude similar to that observed in ir-hspro seedlings. Thus, we showed that, similar to NaHSPRO, NaGAL83 is a negative regulator of seedling growth stimulated by P. indica. We propose that the effect of NaHSPRO on seedling growth is associated with SnRK1 signaling.
Nicotiana attenuata; Piriformospora indica; HSPRO; SnRK1; plant growth promotion; signaling
Floral nectar (FN) contains not only energy-rich compounds to attract pollinators, but also defense chemicals and several proteins. However, proteomic analysis of FN has been hampered by the lack of publically available sequence information from nectar-producing plants. Here we used next-generation sequencing and advanced proteomics to profile FN proteins in the opportunistic outcrossing wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata.
We constructed a transcriptome database of N. attenuata and characterized its nectar proteome using LC-MS/MS. The FN proteins of N. attenuata included nectarins, sugar-cleaving enzymes (glucosidase, galactosidase, and xylosidase), RNases, pathogen-related proteins, and lipid transfer proteins. Natural variation in FN proteins of eleven N. attenuata accessions revealed a negative relationship between the accumulation of two abundant proteins, nectarin1b and nectarin5. In addition, microarray analysis of nectary tissues revealed that protein accumulation in FN is not simply correlated with the accumulation of transcripts encoding FN proteins and identified a group of genes that were specifically expressed in the nectary.
Natural variation of identified FN proteins in the ecological model plant N. attenuata suggests that nectar chemistry may have a complex function in plant-pollinator-microbe interactions.
LC-MS/MS; Nectar protein; Nectarin; Nicotiana attenuata
Genetically modified plants are widely used in agriculture and increasingly in ecological research to enable the selective manipulation of plant traits in the field. Despite their broad usage, many aspects of unwanted transgene silencing throughout plant development are still poorly understood. A transgene can be epigenetically silenced by a process called RNA directed DNA methylation (RdDM), which can be seen as a heritable loss of gene expression. The spontaneous nature of transgene silencing has been widely reported, but patterns of acquirement remain still unclear.
Transgenic wild tobacco plants (Nicotiana attenuata) expressing heterologous genes coding for antimicrobial peptides displayed an erratic and variable occurrence of transgene silencing. We focused on three independently transformed lines (PNA 1.2, PNA 10.1 and ICE 4.4) as they rapidly lost the expression of the resistance marker and down-regulated transgene expression by more than 200 fold after only one plant generation. Bisulfite sequencing indicated hypermethylation within the 35S and NOS promoters of these lines. To shed light on the progress of methylation establishment, we successively sampled leaf tissues from different stages during plant development and found a rapid increase in 35S promoter methylation during vegetative growth (up to 77% absolute increase within 45 days of growth). The levels of de novo methylation were inherited by the offspring without any visible discontinuation. A secondary callus regeneration step could interfere with the establishment of gene silencing and we found successfully restored transgene expression in the offspring of several regenerants.
The unpredictability of the gene silencing process requires a thorough selection and early detection of unstable plant lines. De novo methylation of the transgenes was acquired solely during vegetative development and did not require a generational change for its establishment or enhancement. A secondary callus regeneration step provides a convenient way to rescue transgene expression without causing undesirable morphological effects, which is essential for experiments that use transformed plants in the analysis of ecologically important traits.
Calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) modulate plant development and growth and are important regulators of biotic and abiotic stress responses. Recently it was found that simultaneously silencing Nicotiana attenuata NaCDPK4 and NaCDPK5 (IRcdpk4/5 plants) results in accumulation of exceptionally high JA levels after wounding or simulated herbivory treatments, which in turn induced high levels of defense metabolites that slowed the growth of Manduca sexta, a specialist insect herbivore. To investigate the mechanism by which NaCDPK4 and NaCDPK5 regulate JA accumulation, we analyzed the transcript levels of all important enzymes involved in JA biosynthesis, but these genes showed no differences between wild-type and IRcdpk4/5 plants. Moreover, the dynamics of JA were similar between these plants, excluding the possibility of decreased degradation rates in IRcdpk4/5 plants. To gain insight into the mechanism by which NaCDPK4 and NaCDPK5 regulate JA biosynthesis, free fatty acids, including C18:3, and (9S,13S)-12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (OPDA), two important precursors of JA were quantified at different times before and after wounding and simulated herbivore feeding treatments. We show that after these treatments, IRcdpk4/5 plants have decreased levels of C18:3, but have enhanced OPDA and JA levels, suggesting that NaCDPK4 and NaCDPK5 have a role in the early steps of JA biosynthesis. The possible role of NaCDPK4 and NaCDPK5 regulating AOS and AOC enzymatic activity is discussed.
CDPK; jasmonic acid; defense; herbivore; insect; wounding
Manduca sexta; plant volatiles; oviposition; Ca imaging; Datura wrightii; Other
In a transcriptomic screen of Manduca sexta-induced N-acyltransferases in leaves of Nicotiana attenuata, we identified an N-acyltransferase gene sharing a high similarity with the tobacco lignin-biosynthetic hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HCT) gene whose expression is controlled by MYB8, a transcription factor that regulates the production of phenylpropanoid polyamine conjugates (phenolamides, PAs). To evaluate the involvement of this HCT-like gene in lignin production as well as the resulting crosstalk with PA metabolism during insect herbivory, we transiently silenced (by VIGs) the expression of this gene and performed non-targeted (UHPLC-ESI/TOF-MS) metabolomics analyses. In agreement with a conserved function of N. attenuata HCT-like in lignin biogenesis, HCT-silenced plants developed weak, soft stems with greatly reduced lignin contents. Metabolic profiling demonstrated large shifts (up to 12% deregulation in total extracted ions in insect-attacked leaves) due to a large diversion of activated coumaric acid units into the production of developmentally and herbivory-induced coumaroyl-containing PAs (N′,N′′-dicoumaroylspermidine, N′,N′′-coumaroylputrescine, etc) and to minor increases in the most abundant free phenolics (chlorogenic and cryptochlorogenic acids), all without altering the production of well characterized herbivory-responsive caffeoyl- and feruloyl-based putrescine and spermidine PAs. These data are consistent with a strong metabolic tension, exacerbated during herbivory, over the allocation of coumaroyl-CoA units among lignin and unusual coumaroyl-containing PAs, and rule out a role for HCT-LIKE in tuning the herbivory-induced accumulation of other PAs. Additionally, these results are consistent with a role for lignification as an induced anti-herbivore defense.
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.
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.
Manduca sexta; plant volatiles; oviposition; Ca imaging; Datura wrightii; Other
To survive herbivore attack, plants have evolved potent mechanisms of mechanical or chemical defense that are either constitutively present or inducible after herbivore attack. Due to the costs of defense deployment, plants often regulate their biosynthesis using various transcription factors (TFs). MYC2 regulators belong to the bHLH family of transcription factors that are involved in many aspects of plant defense and development. In this study, we identified a novel MYC2 TF from N. attenuata and characterized its regulatory function using a combination of molecular, analytic and ecological methods.
The transcript and targeted metabolite analyses demonstrated that NaMYC2 is mainly involved in the regulation of the biosynthesis of nicotine and phenolamides in N. attenuata. In addition, using broadly-targeted metabolite analysis, we identified a number of other metabolite features that were regulated by NaMYC2, which, after full annotation, are expected to broaden our understanding of plant defense regulation. Unlike previous reports, the biosynthesis of jasmonates and some JA-/NaCOI1-dependent metabolites (e.g. HGL-DTGs) were not strongly regulated by NaMYC2, suggesting the involvement of other independent regulators. No significant differences were observed in the performance of M. sexta on MYC2-silenced plants, consistent with the well-known ability of this specialist insect to tolerate nicotine.
By regulating the biosynthesis of nicotine, NaMYC2 is likely to enhance plant resistance against non-adapted herbivores and contribute to plant fitness; however, multiple JA/NaCOI1-dependent mechanisms (perhaps involving other MYCs) that regulate separate defense responses are likely to exist in N. attenuata. The considerable variation observed amongst different plant families in the responses regulated by jasmonate signaling highlights the sophistication with which plants craft highly specific and fine-tuned responses against the herbivores that attack them.
bHLH; Manduca sexta; MYC2; Transcription factors; Nicotiana attenuata; Nicotine; Phenolamides; Plant-insect interactions; Transcriptional regulation
Jasmonic acid is an important regulator of plant growth, development and defense. The jasmonate-ZIM domain (JAZ) proteins are key regulators in jasmonate signaling ubiquitously present in flowering plants but their functional annotation remains largely incomplete. Recently, we identified 12 putative JAZ proteins in native tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, and initiated systematic functional characterization of these proteins by reverse genetic approaches. In this report, Nicotiana attenuata plants silenced in the expression of NaJAZd (irJAZd) by RNA interference were used to characterize NaJAZd function. Although NaJAZd transcripts were strongly and transiently up-regulated in the rosette leaves by simulated herbivory treatment, we did not observe strong defense-related phenotypes, such as altered herbivore performance or the constitutive accumulation of defense-related secondary metabolites in irJAZd plants compared to wild type plants, both in the glasshouse and the native habitat of Nicotiana attenuata in the Great Basin Desert, Utah, USA. Interestingly, irJAZd plants produced fewer seed capsules than did wild type plants as a result of increased flower abscission in later stages of flower development. The early- and mid-developmental stages of irJAZd flowers had reduced levels of jasmonic acid and jasmonoyl-L-isoleucine, while fully open flowers had normal levels, but these were impaired in NaMYB305 transcript accumulations. Previously, NaMYB305-silenced plants were shown to have strong flower abscission phenotypes and contained lower NECTARIN 1 transcript levels, phenotypes which are copied in irJAZd plants. We propose that the NaJAZd protein is required to counteract flower abscission, possibly by regulating jasmonic acid and jasmonoyl-L-isoleucine levels and/or expression of NaMYB305 gene in Nicotiana attenuata flowers. This novel insight into the function of JAZ proteins in flower and seed development highlights the diversity of functions played by jasmonates and JAZ proteins.
Here we discuss opportunities for system-wide analysis of plant volatiles provided by the
implementation of non-supervised data processing. We illustrate the value of such
approaches by presenting recent findings on wild tobacco volatile emissions using
two-dimensional gas chromatography.
Plant volatile organic compound (VOC) production requires a complex network of
biochemical pathways, which, although well mapped from a biochemical point of view,
remains only partly understood with regard to its physiological and genetic regulation.
Additionally, although analytical procedures for plant VOC measurement have become
increasingly faster and more sensitive in recent years, pinpointing relevant shifts in VOC
production from the thousands of molecular fragments that are generated by modern mass
spectrometer instruments remains challenging. Here we discuss novel opportunities for
system-wide analysis provided by the implementation of non-targeted data processing and
multivariate statistics in VOC analysis. We illustrate the value of implementing
non-targeted data processing with examples of recent findings from our group on the
interactive control exerted by salivary components of a lepidopteran herbivore,
Manduca sexta, on herbivory-induced VOC emissions in the wild tobacco
Nicotiana attenuata. Finally, we briefly discuss the use of
multi-platform data integration for probing the nature of metabolic and regulatory systems
underlying VOC emissions.
Herbivory; metabolomics; Nicotiana attenuata; plant volatiles; two-dimensional gas chromatography; untargeted analysis.
Wound-inducible Pin-II Proteinase inhibitors (PIs) are one of the important plant serine PIs which have been studied extensively for their structural and functional diversity and relevance in plant defense against insect pests. To explore the functional specialization of an array of Capsicum annuum (L.) proteinase inhibitor (CanPIs) genes, we studied their expression, processing and tissue-specific distribution under steady-state and induced conditions. Inductions were performed by subjecting C. annuum leaves to various treatments, namely aphid infestation or mechanical wounding followed by treatment with either oral secretion (OS) of Helicoverpa armigera or water.
The elicitation treatments regulated the accumulation of CanPIs corresponding to 4-, 3-, and 2-inhibitory repeat domains (IRDs). Fourty seven different CanPI genes composed of 28 unique IRDs were identified in total along with those reported earlier. The CanPI gene pool either from uninduced or induced leaves was dominated by 3-IRD PIs and trypsin inhibitory domains. Also a major contribution by 4-IRD CanPI genes possessing trypsin and chymotrypsin inhibitor domains was specifically revealed in wounded leaves treated with OS. Wounding displayed the highest number of unique CanPIs while wounding with OS treatment resulted in the high accumulation of specifically CanPI-4, -7 and −10. Characterization of the PI protein activity through two dimensional gel electrophoresis revealed tissue and induction specific patterns. Consistent with transcript abundance, wound plus OS or water treated C. annuum leaves exhibited significantly higher PI activity and isoform diversity contributed by 3- and 4-IRD CanPIs. CanPI accumulation and activity was weakly elicited by aphid infestation yet resulted in the higher expression of CanPI-26, -41 and −43.
Plants can differentially perceive various kinds of insect attacks and respond appropriately through activating plant defenses including regulation of PIs at transcriptional and post-translational levels. Based on the differentially elicited CanPI accumulation patterns, it is intriguing to speculate that generating sequence diversity in the form of multi-IRD PIs is a part of elaborative plant defense strategy to obtain a diverse pool of functional units to confine insect attack.
Plant-insect interaction; Herbivory; Oral secretions; Pin-II type proteinase inhibitors; CanPI
Induced defense responses to herbivores are generally believed to have evolved as cost-saving strategies that defer the fitness costs of defense metabolism until these defenses are needed. The fitness costs of jasmonate (JA)-mediated defenses have been well documented. Those of the early signaling units mediating induced resistance to herbivores have yet to be examined. Early signaling components that mediate herbivore-induced defense responses in Nicotiana attenuata, have been well characterized and here we examine their growth and fitness costs during competition with conspecifics. Two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), salicylic acid (SA)-induced protein kinase (SIPK) and wound-induced protein kinase (WIPK) are rapidly activated after perception of herbivory and both kinases regulate herbivory-induced JA levels and JA-mediated defense metabolite accumulations. Since JA-induced defenses result in resource-based trade-offs that compromise plant productivity, we evaluated if silencing SIPK (irSIPK) and WIPK (irWIPK) benefits the growth and fitness of plants competiting with wild type (WT) plants, as has been shown for plants silenced in JA-signaling by the reduction of Lipoxygenase 3 (LOX3) levels.
As expected, irWIPK and LOX3-silenced plants out-performed their competing WT plants. Surprisingly, irSIPK plants, which have the largest reductions in JA signaling, did not. Phytohormone profiling of leaves revealed that irSIPK plants accumulated higher levels of SA compared to WT. To test the hypothesis that these high levels of SA, and their presumed associated fitness costs of pathogen associated defenses in irSIPK plants had nullified the JA-deficiency-mediated growth benefits in these plants, we genetically reduced SA levels in irSIPK plants. Reducing SA levels partially recovered the biomass and fitness deficits of irSIPK plants. We also evaluated whether the increased fitness of plants with reduced SA or JA levels resulted from increased nitrogen or CO2 assimilation rates, and found no evidence that greater intake of these fitness-limiting resources were responsible.
Signaling mediated by WIPK, but not SIPK, is associated with large fitness costs in competing N. attenuata plants, demonstrating the contrasting roles that these two MAPKs play in regulating the plants’ growth-defense balance. We discuss the role of SIPK as an important regulator of plant fitness, possibly by modulating SA-JA crosstalk as mediated through ethylene signaling.
Fitness costs; Induced defense; MAPK; Herbivory; Nicotiana attenuata; Salicylic acid; Jasmonic acid; Ethylene; Nitrogen; Photosynthesis
Plant microRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in the transcriptional responses to environmental stresses. However, the role of miRNAs in responses to insect herbivory has not been thoroughly explored. To identify herbivory-responsive miRNAs, we identified conserved miRNAs in the ecological model plant Nicotiana attenuata whose interactions with herbivores have been well-characterized in both laboratory and field studies.
We identified 59 miRNAs from 36 families, and two endogenous trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNA) targeted by miRNAs. We characterized the response of the precursor and mature miRNAs to simulated attack from the specialist herbivore Manduca sexta by quantitative PCR analysis and used ir-aoc RNAi transformants, deficient in jasmonate biosynthesis, to identify jasmonate-dependent and -independent miRNA regulation. Expression analysis revealed that groups of miRNAs and tasiRNAs were specifically regulated by either mechanical wounding or wounding plus oral secretions from M. sexta larvae, and these small RNAs were accumulated in jasmonate-dependent or -independent manners. Moreover, cDNA microarray analysis indicated that the expression patterns of the corresponding target genes were correlated with the accumulation of miRNAs and tasiRNAs.
We show that a group of miRNAs and tasiRNAs orchestrates the expression of target genes involved in N. attenuata’s responses to herbivore attack.
Anti-herbivore defense; Jasmonate; Manduca sexta; miRNA; Nicotiana attenuata; tasiRNA
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.
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.
Nicotiana attenuata; HIPV (herbivory-induced plant volatile); plant-predator interaction; GLV (green leaf volatile); TPI (trypsin protease inhibitor); indirect defense; Other
A plant’s endogenous clock (circadian clock) entrains physiological processes to light/dark and temperature cycles. Forward and reverse genetic approaches in Arabidopsis have revealed the mechanisms of the circadian clock and its components in the genome. Similar approaches have been used to characterize conserved clock elements in several plant species. A wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata has been studied extensively to understand responses to biotic or abiotic stress in the glasshouse and also in their native habitat. During two decades of field experiment, we observed several diurnal rhythmic traits of N. attenuata in nature. To expand our knowledge of circadian clock function into the entrainment of traits important for ecological processes, we here report three core clock components in N. attenuata.
Protein similarity and transcript accumulation allowed us to isolate orthologous genes of the core circadian clock components, LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL (LHY), TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1/PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATOR 1 (TOC1/PRR1), and ZEITLUPE (ZTL). Transcript accumulation of NaLHY peaked at dawn and NaTOC1 peaked at dusk in plants grown under long day conditions. Ectopic expression of NaLHY and NaZTL in Arabidopsis resulted in elongated hypocotyl and late-flowering phenotypes. Protein interactions between NaTOC1 and NaZTL were confirmed by yeast two-hybrid assays. Finally, when NaTOC1 was silenced in N. attenuata, late-flowering phenotypes under long day conditions were clearly observed.
We identified three core circadian clock genes in N. attenuata and demonstrated the functional and biochemical conservation of NaLHY, NaTOC1, and NaZTL.
Circadian clock; Flowering time; NaLHY; NaTOC1; NaZTL; Nicotiana attenuata; Protein interaction
When attacked by herbivores, plants produce toxic secondary metabolites that function as direct defenses, as well as indirect defenses that attract and reward predators of the offending herbivores. These indirect defenses include both nutritive rewards such as extra floral nectar, as well as informational rewards, such as the production and release of volatile compounds that betray the location of feeding herbivores to predators. Herbivory of Nicotiana attenuata by the tobacco hornworm (Manduca larvae) alters the volatile profiles of both the plant and larval headspace. Herbivory-elicited specific changes in the volatile profiles are detected by arthropod predators of Manduca larvae. The known predators that perceive volatile cues induced by Manduca herbivory of N. attenuata are insects that target Manduca at early developmental stages, when the larvae are still small; large, late-instar larvae may have outgrown these predation risks. However, here we offer evidence that branched chain aliphatic acids derived from the digestion of plant O-acyl sugars from trichomes may betray Manduca larvae to lizard predators during late developmental stages as well.
O-acyl sugars; body odor; frass odor; lizards; Manduca quinquemaculata; Manduca sexta; Nicotiana attenuata
The N. attenuata HD20 gene belongs to the homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-Zip) type I family of transcription factors and it has been previously associated with the regulation of ABA accumulation in leaves and the emission of benzyl acetone (BA; 4-phenyl-2-butanone) from night flowers. In this study, N. attenuata plants stably reduced in the expression of HD20 (ir-hd20) were generated to investigate the mechanisms controlling the emission of BA from night flowers.
The expression of HD20 in corollas of ir-hd20 plants was reduced by 85 to 90% compared to wild-type plants (WT) without affecting flower morphology and development. Total BA emitted from flowers of ir-hd20 plants was reduced on average by 60%. This reduction occurred mainly at the late phase of BA emission and it was correlated with 2-fold higher levels of ABA in the corollas of ir-hd20 plants. When a 2-fold decline in ABA corolla levels of these plants was induced by salt stress, BA emissions recovered to WT levels. Supplying ABA to WT flowers either through the cuticle or by pedicle feeding reduced the total BA emissions by 25 to 50%; this reduction occurred primarily at the late phase of emission (similar to the reduction observed in corollas of ir-hd20 plants). Gene expression profiling of corollas collected at 12 pm (six hours before the start of BA emission) revealed that 274 genes changed expression levels significantly in ir-hd20 plants compared to WT. Among these genes, more than 35% were associated with metabolism and the most prominent group was associated with the metabolism of aromatic compounds and phenylpropanoid derivatives.
The results indicated that regulation of ABA levels in corollas is associated with the late phase of BA emission in N. attenuata plants and that HD20 affects this latter process by mediating changes in both ABA levels and metabolic gene expression.
SGT1 (suppressor of G-two allele of SKP1) is highly conserved among all eukaryotes. In plants, SGT1 interacts with various proteins, including molecular chaperones (HSP70 and HSP90) and certain SCF ubiquitin ligases, and hence SGT1 likely functions in protein folding and stability. Since these protein complexes are involved in many aspects of plant biology, plants with a defective SGT1 display a plethora of phenotypic alterations. In this mini-review we highlight the interaction between SGT1 with other protein complexes and summarize the function of SGT1 in plant defense responses and development, including the recent advancements in the understanding of the role of SGT1 in jasmonic acid (JA) biosynthesis and signaling.
SGT1; HSP90; RAR1; immunity; development; jasmonate; coronatine; pathogen; herbivore
Recent investigations showed that the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana specifically responds to herbivory-associated molecular patterns by activating a sophisticated signaling network. The lipase activity of insect oral secretions was shown to elevate oxylipin levels when applied to puncture wounds in leaves. The results also demonstrated that the oral secretions of the generalist Schistocerca gregaria contained other, probably non-proteinous, elicitors of plant defense responses which induced mitogen-activated protein kinases, calcium signaling and ethylene levels.1 This addendum presents data on the levels of additional phytohormones that are elevated after application of S. gregaria oral secretion to wounded leaves. Abscisic acid and salicylic acid levels are significantly elevated after elicitation with S. gregaria oral secretions, adding another layer of complexity to the herbivory-induced response of A. thaliana.
abscisic acid; Arabidopsis; herbivory; salicylic acid; Schistocerca gregaria
Almost a decade ago BRI1-associated kinase 1 (BAK1) was identified as a co-receptor of brassinosteroid (BR) insensitive 1 (BRI1), the receptor for BRs, which plays an essential role in transducing BR signaling to regulate plant development. BAK1 is also critical in resistance to various pathogens. BAK1 rapidly binds to certain receptors for pathogen/microbe-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs/MAMPs) after the perception of pathogen elicitors and is required for the full elicitation of pathogen-induced defense responses, such as the activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase 6 (MPK6) and production of reactive oxygen species. Thus, BAK1 functions in both BR signaling and PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI). Recently BAK1 was also found to play an important role in mediating defense responses against an insect herbivore (Manduca sexta) of Nicotiana attenuata. In this interaction, BAK1 positively modulates wound- or herbivore feeding-induced accumulation of jasmonic acid (JA) and JA-isoleucine (JA-Ile). This mini-review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of the functions of BAK1 in resistance to pathogens and herbivores.
BAK1; defense; herbivore; immunity; insect; jasmonate; pathogen; wounding