Plant elicitor peptides in induced defense against insects

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Over 20 years ago the peptide systemin was discovered to be an integral regulator of anti-herbivore defense responses in Solanaceous plants. However, other peptides of similar function have remained elusive. Plant Elicitor Peptides (Peps) were initially discovered in Arabidopsis as mediators of basal immune responses protective against invading pathogens. Recently a Pep from maize, ZmPep3, was demonstrated to be a potent regulator of anti-herbivore defenses. ZmPep3 was as active as the Lepidopteran elicitor N-linolenoyl-l-glutamine (Gln-18:3) in stimulating volatile emission and accumulation of defense transcripts and metabolites, resulting in both attraction of the parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris and suppressed growth of Spodoptera exigua larvae. Orthologues of Peps in Solanaceous and Fabaceous plants also trigger emission of herbivore-associated volatiles, indicating that Peps have a conserved role as regulators of plant defense against herbivores in diverse species. This conservation of a peptide signal and cognate receptor for activation of plant defense responses reveals a widespread regulatory motif and provides opportunities for manipulation of plant resistance.

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