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Ecology. 2008 Feb;89(2):392-406.

Constitutive and induced defenses to herbivory in above- and belowground plant tissues.

Author information

1
Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA. ik223@cornell.edu

Abstract

A recent surge in attention devoted to the ecology of soil biota has prompted interest in quantifying similarities and differences between interactions occurring in above- and belowground communities. Furthermore, linkages that interconnect the dynamics of these two spatially distinct ecosystems are increasingly documented. We use a similar approach in the context of understanding plant defenses to herbivory, including how they are allocated between leaves and roots (constitutive defenses), and potential cross-system linkages (induced defenses). To explore these issues we utilized three different empirical approaches. First, we manipulated foliar and root herbivory on tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and measured changes in the secondary chemistry of above- and belowground tissues. Second, we reviewed published studies that compared levels of secondary chemistry between leaves and roots to determine how plants distribute putative defense chemicals across the above- and belowground systems. Last, we used meta-analysis to quantify the impact of induced responses across plant tissue types. In the tobacco system, leaf-chewing insects strongly induced higher levels of secondary metabolites in leaves but had no impact on root chemistry. Nematode root herbivores, however, elicited changes in both leaves and roots. Virtually all secondary chemicals measured were elevated in nematode-induced galls, whereas the impact of root herbivory on foliar chemistry was highly variable and depended on where chemicals were produced within the plant. Importantly, nematodes interfered with aboveground metabolites that have biosynthetic sites located in roots (e.g., nicotine) but had the opposite effect (i.e., nematodes elevated foliar expression) on chemicals produced in shoots (e.g., phenolics and terpenoids). Results from our literature review suggest that, overall, constitutive defense levels are extremely similar when comparing leaves with roots, although certain chemical classes (e.g., alkaloids, glucosinolates) are differentially allocated between above- and belowground parts. Based on a meta-analysis of induced defense studies we conclude that: (1) foliar induction generates strong responses in leaves, but much weaker responses in roots, and (2) root induction elicits responses of equal magnitude in both leaves and roots. We discuss the importance of this asymmetry and the paradox of cross-system induction in relation to optimal defense theory and interactions between above- and belowground herbivory.

PMID:
18409429
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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