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Plant Cell. 2013 Jun;25(6):2341-55. doi: 10.1105/tpc.113.112409. Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Natural variation in maize aphid resistance is associated with 2,4-dihydroxy-7-methoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one glucoside methyltransferase activity.

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Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Plants differ greatly in their susceptibility to insect herbivory, suggesting both local adaptation and resistance tradeoffs. We used maize (Zea mays) recombinant inbred lines to map a quantitative trait locus (QTL) for the maize leaf aphid (Rhopalosiphum maidis) susceptibility to maize Chromosome 1. Phytochemical analysis revealed that the same locus was also associated with high levels of 2-hydroxy-4,7-dimethoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one glucoside (HDMBOA-Glc) and low levels of 2,4-dihydroxy-7-methoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one glucoside (DIMBOA-Glc). In vitro enzyme assays with candidate genes from the region of the QTL identified three O-methyltransferases (Bx10a-c) that convert DIMBOA-Glc to HDMBOA-Glc. Variation in HDMBOA-Glc production was attributed to a natural CACTA family transposon insertion that inactivates Bx10c in maize lines with low HDMBOA-Glc accumulation. When tested with a population of 26 diverse maize inbred lines, R. maidis produced more progeny on those with high HDMBOA-Glc and low DIMBOA-Glc. Although HDMBOA-Glc was more toxic to R. maidis than DIMBOA-Glc in vitro, BX10c activity and the resulting decline of DIMBOA-Glc upon methylation to HDMBOA-Glc were associated with reduced callose deposition as an aphid defense response in vivo. Thus, a natural transposon insertion appears to mediate an ecologically relevant trade-off between the direct toxicity and defense-inducing properties of maize benzoxazinoids.

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