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New Phytol. 2012 Apr;194(2):498-510. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04057.x. Epub 2012 Feb 7.

The broad-leaf herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid turns rice into a living trap for a major insect pest and a parasitic wasp.

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National Key Laboratory of Rice Biology, Institute of Insect Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310029, China.


Synthetic chemical elicitors of plant defense have been touted as a powerful means for sustainable crop protection. Yet, they have never been successfully applied to control insect pests in the field. We developed a high-throughput chemical genetics screening system based on a herbivore-induced linalool synthase promoter fused to a β-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter construct to test synthetic compounds for their potential to induce rice defenses. We identified 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), an auxin homolog and widely used herbicide in monocotyledonous crops, as a potent elicitor of rice defenses. Low doses of 2,4-D induced a strong defensive reaction upstream of the jasmonic acid and ethylene pathways, resulting in a marked increase in trypsin proteinase inhibitor activity and volatile production. Induced plants were more resistant to the striped stem borer Chilo suppressalis, but became highly attractive to the brown planthopper Nilaparvata lugens and its main egg parasitoid Anagrus nilaparvatae. In a field experiment, 2,4-D application turned rice plants into living traps for N. lugens by attracting parasitoids. Our findings demonstrate the potential of auxin homologs as defensive signals and show the potential of the herbicide to turn rice into a selective catch crop for an economically important pest.

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