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Plant Cell. 2006 Nov;18(11):3303-20. Epub 2006 Nov 3.

Silencing threonine deaminase and JAR4 in Nicotiana attenuata impairs jasmonic acid-isoleucine-mediated defenses against Manduca sexta.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck-Institute of Chemical Ecology, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


Threonine deaminase (TD) catalyzes the conversion of Thr to alpha-keto butyrate in Ile biosynthesis; however, its dramatic upregulation in leaves after herbivore attack suggests a role in defense. In Nicotiana attenuata, strongly silenced TD transgenic plants were stunted, whereas mildly silenced TD transgenic plants had normal growth but were highly susceptible to Manduca sexta attack. The herbivore susceptibility was associated with the reduced levels of jasmonic acid-isoleucine (JA-Ile), trypsin proteinase inhibitors, and nicotine. Adding [(13)C(4)]Thr to wounds treated with oral secretions revealed that TD supplies Ile for JA-Ile synthesis. Applying Ile or JA-Ile to the wounds of TD-silenced plants restored herbivore resistance. Silencing JASMONATE-RESISTANT4 (JAR4), the N. attenuata homolog of the JA-Ile-conjugating enzyme JAR1, by virus-induced gene silencing confirmed that JA-Ile plays important roles in activating plant defenses. TD may also function in the insect gut as an antinutritive defense protein, decreasing the availability of Thr, because continuous supplementation of TD-silenced plants with large amounts (2 mmol) of Thr, but not Ile, increased M. sexta growth. However, the fact that the herbivore resistance of both TD- and JAR-silenced plants was completely restored by signal quantities (0.6 mumol) of JA-Ile treatment suggests that TD's defensive role can be attributed more to signaling than to antinutritive defense.

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