Insect attack triggers changes in transcript level in plants that are mediated predominantly by jasmonic acid (JA). The implication of ethylene (ET), salicylic acid (SA), and other signals in this response is less understood and was monitored with a microarray containing insect- and defense-regulated genes. Arabidopsis thaliana mutants coi1-1, ein2-1, and sid2-1 impaired in JA, ET, and SA signaling pathways were challenged with the specialist small cabbage white (Pieris rapae) and the generalist Egyptian cotton worm (Spodoptera littoralis). JA was shown to be a major signal controlling the upregulation of defense genes in response to either insect but was found to suppress changes in transcript level only in response to P. rapae. Larval growth was affected by the JA-dependent defenses, but S. littoralis gained much more weight on coi1-1 than P. rapae. ET and SA mutants had an altered transcript profile after S. littoralis herbivory but not after P. rapae herbivory. In contrast, both insects yielded similar transcript signatures in the abscisic acid (ABA)-biosynthetic mutants aba2-1 and aba3-1, and ABA controlled transcript levels both negatively and positively in insect-attacked plants. In accordance with the transcript signature, S. littoralis larvae performed better on aba2-1 mutants. This study reveals a new role for ABA in defense against insects in Arabidopsis and identifies some components important for plant resistance to herbivory.
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