- Unbiased Transcriptional Comparisons of Generalist and Specialist Herbivores Feeding on Progressively Defenseless Nicotiana attenuata Plants
- PLoS One
- Volume | Issue number
- 5 | 1
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS)
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.
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.
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