Induction of indirect plant defense in the context of multiple herbivory : gene transcription, volatile emission, and predator behavior

T.R. Menzel

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Abstract

Plants live in complex environments and are under constant threat of being attacked by herbivorous arthropods. Consequently plants possess an arsenal of sophisticated mechanisms in order to defend themselves against their ubiquitous attackers. Induced indirect defenses involve the attraction of natural enemies of herbivores, such as predators and parasitoids. Predators and parasitoids use odors emitted by damaged plants that serve as a “cry for help” to find their respective prey or host herbivore. The aim of this thesis was to use a multidisciplinary approach, with focus on molecular and chemical methods, combined with behavioral investigations, to elucidate the mechanisms of plant responses to multiple herbivory that affect a tritrophic system consisting of a plant, an herbivore and a natural enemy.

Induced plant defenses are regulated by a network of defense signaling pathways in which phytohormones act as signaling molecules. Accordingly, simulation of herbivory by exogenous application of phytohormones and actual herbivory by the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae affected transcript levels of a defense gene involved in indirect defense in Lima bean. However, two other genes involved in defense were not affected at the time point investigated. Moreover, application of a low dose of JA followed by minor herbivory by T. urticae spider mites affected gene transcript levels and emissions of plant volatiles commonly associated with herbivory. Only endogenous phytohormone levels of jasmonic acid (JA), but not salicylic acid (SA), were affected by treatments. Nevertheless, the low-dose JA application resulted in a synergistic effect on gene transcription and an increased emission of a volatile compound involved in indirect defense after herbivore infestation.

Caterpillar feeding as well as application of caterpillar oral secretion on mechanically inflicted wounds are frequently used to induce plant defense against biting-chewing insects, which is JA-related. Feeding damage by two caterpillar species caused mostly identical induction of gene transcription, but combination of mechanical damage and oral secretions of caterpillars caused differential induction of the transcription of defense genes. Nevertheless, gene transcript levels for plants that subsequently experienced an infestation by T. urticae were only different for a gene potentially involved in direct defense of plants that experienced a single event of herbivory by T. urticae. Indirect defense was not affected. Also sequential induction of plant defense by caterpillar oral secretion and an infestation by T. urticae spider mites did not interfere with attraction of the specialist predatory mite P. persimilis in olfactometer assays. The predator did distinguish between plants induced by spider mites and plants induced by the combination of mechanical damage and caterpillar oral secretion but not between plants with single spider mite infestation and plants induced by caterpillar oral secretion prior to spider mite infestation. The composition of the volatile blends emitted by plants induced by spider mites only or by the sequential induction treatment of caterpillar oral secretion followed by spider mite infestation were similar. Consequently, the induction of plant indirect defense as applied in these experiments was not affected by previous treatment with oral secretion of caterpillars. Moreover, herbivory by conspecific T. urticae mites did not affect gene transcript levels or emission of volatiles of plants that experienced two bouts of herbivore attack by conspecific spider mites compared to plants that experienced only one bout of spider mite attack. This suggests that Lima bean plants do no increase defense in response to sequential herbivory by T. urticae.

In conclusion, using a multidisciplinary approach new insights were obtained in the mechanisms of induction of indirect plant defense and tritrophic interactions in a multiple herbivore context, providing helpful leads for future research on plant responses to multiple stresses.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Dicke, Marcel, Promotor
  • van Loon, Joop, Promotor
Award date19 Nov 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462571297
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • plants
  • pest resistance
  • induced resistance
  • defence mechanisms
  • multitrophic interactions
  • phaseolus lunatus
  • mites
  • tetranychus urticae
  • predatory mites
  • phytoseiulus persimilis
  • feeding behaviour
  • genes
  • transcription
  • gene expression
  • herbivore induced plant volatiles

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