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Plant Physiol. 2001 Feb;125(2):683-700.

Molecular interactions between the specialist herbivore Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera, Sphingidae) and its natural host Nicotiana attenuata. I. Large-scale changes in the accumulation of growth- and defense-related plant mRNAs.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Carl Zeiss Promenade 10, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


Plants respond to herbivore attack with a dramatic functional reorganization that involves the activation of direct and indirect defenses and tolerance, which in turn make large demands on primary metabolism. Here we provide the first characterization of the transcriptional reorganization that occurs after insect attack in a model plant-herbivore system: Nicotiana attenuata Torr. ex Wats.-Manduca sexta. We used mRNA differential display to characterize one-twentieth of the insect-responsive transcriptome of N. attenuata and verified differential expression for 27 cDNAs. Northern analyses were used to study the effects of folivory and exposure to airborne methyl jasmonate and for kinetic analyses throughout a 16-h- light/8-h-dark cycle. Sequence similarity searches allowed putative functions to be assigned to 15 transcripts. Genes were related to photosynthesis, electron transport, cytoskeleton, carbon and nitrogen metabolism, signaling, and a group responding to stress, wounding, or invasion of pathogens. Overall, transcripts involved in photosynthesis were strongly down-regulated, whereas those responding to stress, wounding, and pathogens and involved in shifting carbon and nitrogen to defense were strongly up-regulated. The majority of transcripts responded similarly to airborne methyl jasmonate and folivory, and had tissue- and diurnal-specific patterns of expression. Transcripts encoding Thr deaminase (TD) and a putative retrotransposon were absent in control plants, but were strongly induced after herbivory. Full-length sequences were obtained for TD and the pathogen-inducible alpha-dioxygenase, PIOX. Effects of abiotic and biotic stimuli were investigated for transcripts encoding TD, importin alpha, PIOX, and a GAL83-like kinase cofactor.

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