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Plant J. 2004 May;38(4):650-63.

Herbivore-induced plant vaccination. Part II. Array-studies reveal the transience of herbivore-specific transcriptional imprints and a distinct imprint from stress combinations.

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Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, Beutenberg Campus, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


Microarray technology has given plant biologists the ability to simultaneously monitor changes in the expression of hundreds of genes, and yet, to date, this technology has not been applied to ecological phenomena. In native tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata), prior attack of sap-feeding mirids (Tupiocoris notatus) results in vaccination of the plant against subsequent attacks by chewing hornworms (Manduca sexta). This vaccination is mediated by a combination of direct and indirect defenses and tolerance responses, which act in concert with the attack preferences of a generalist predator. Here, we use microarrays enriched in herbivore-elicited genes with a principal components analysis (PCA) to characterize transcriptional 'imprints' of single, sequential, or simultaneous attacks by these two main herbivores of N. attenuata. The PCA identified distinctly different imprints left by individual attack from the two species after 24 h, but not after 5 days. Moreover, imprints of sequential or simultaneous attacks differed significantly from those of single attack, suggesting the existence of a distinct gene expression program responsive to the combination of biological stressors. A dissection of the transcriptional imprints revealed responses in direct and indirect defense genes that were well correlated with observed increases in defense metabolites. Attack from both herbivores elicits a switch from growth- to defense-related transcriptional processes, and herbivore-specific changes occur largely in primary metabolism and signaling cascades. PCA of these polygenic transcriptional imprints characterizes the ephemeral changes in the transcriptome that occur during the maturation of ecologically relevant phenotypic responses.

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