Plant vascular architecture determines the pattern of herbivore-induced systemic responses in Arabidopsis thaliana

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© 2015 Ferrieri et al. The induction of systemic responses in plants is associated with the connectivity between damaged and undamaged leaves, as determined by vascular architecture. Despite the widespread appreciation for studying variation in induced plant defense, few studies have characterized spatial variability of induction in the model species, Arabidopsis thaliana. Here we show that plant architecture generates fine scale spatial variation in the systemic induction of invertase and phenolic compounds. We examined whether the arrangement of leaves along the stem (phyllotaxy) produces predictable spatial patterns of cell-wall bound and soluble invertase activities, and downstream phenolic accumulation following feeding by the dietary specialist herbivore, Pieris rapae and the generalist, Spodoptera exigua. Responses were measured in leaves within and outside of the damaged orthostichy (leaves sharing direct vascular connections), and compared to those from plants where source-sink transport was disrupted by source leaf removal and by an insertional mutation in a sucrose transporter gene (suc2-1). Following herbivore damage to a single, middle-aged leaf, induction of cell-wall and soluble invertase was most pronounced in young and old leaves within the damaged orthostichy. The pattern of accumulation of phenolics was also predicted by these vascular connections and was, in part, dependent on the presence of source leaves and intact sucrose transporter function. Induction also occurred in leaves outside of the damaged orthostichy, suggesting that mechanisms may exist to overcome vascular constraints in this system. Our results demonstrate that systemic responses vary widely according to orthostichy, are often herbivore-specific, and partially rely on transport between source and sink leaves. We also provide evidence that patterns of induction are more integrated in A. thaliana than previously described. This work highlights the importance of plant vascular architecture in determining patterns of systemic induction, which is likely to be ecologically important to insect herbivores and plant pathogens.




Ferrieri, A. P., Appel, H. M., & Schultz, J. C. (2015). Plant vascular architecture determines the pattern of herbivore-induced systemic responses in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS ONE, 10(4).

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