Systematic analysis of phloem-feeding insect-induced transcriptional reprogramming in Arabidopsis highlights common features and reveals distinct responses to specialist and generalist insects.

Research paper by Christine H CH Foyer, Susan R SR Verrall, Robert D RD Hancock

Indexed on: 30 Dec '14Published on: 30 Dec '14Published in: Journal of experimental botany


Phloem-feeding insects (PFIs), of which aphids are the largest group, are major agricultural pests causing extensive damage to crop plants. In contrast to chewing insects, the nature of the plant response to PFIs remains poorly characterized. Scrutiny of the literature concerning transcriptional responses of model and crop plant species to PFIs reveals surprisingly little consensus with respect to the transcripts showing altered abundance following infestation. Nevertheless, core features of the transcriptional response to PFIs can be defined in Arabidopsis thaliana. This comparison of the PFI-associated transcriptional response observed in A. thaliana infested by the generalists Myzus persicae and Bemisia tabaci with the specialist Brevicoryne brassicae highlights the importance of calcium-dependent and receptor kinase-associated signalling. We discuss these findings within the context of the complex cross-talk between the different hormones regulating basal immune response mechanisms in plants. We identify PFI-responsive genes, highlighting the importance of cell wall-associated kinases in plant-PFI interactions, as well as the significant role of kinases containing the domain of unknown function 26. A common feature of plant-PFI interaction is enhanced abundance of transcripts encoding WRKY transcription factors. However, significant divergence was observed with respect to secondary metabolism dependent upon the insect attacker. Transcripts encoding enzymes and proteins associated with glucosinolate metabolism were decreased following attack by the generalist M. persicae but not by the specialist B. brassicae. This analysis provides a comprehensive overview of the molecular patterns associated with the plant response to PFIs and suggests that plants recognize and respond to perturbations in the cell wall occurring during PFI infestation.