Herbivore-induced plant vaccination

Kessler A., I. T. Baldwin (2004) Herbivore-induced plant vaccination. Part I. The orchestration of plant defenses in nature and their fitness consequences in the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata. Plant J 38: 639-649.

Summary

A plant's responses to attack from particular pathogens and herbivores may result in resistance to subsequent attack from the same species, but may also affect different species. Such a cross-resistance, called immunization or vaccination, can benefit the plant, if the fitness consequences of attack from the initial attacker are less than those from subsequent attackers. Here, we report an example of naturally occurring vaccination of the native tobacco plant, Nicotiana attenuata, against Manduca hornworms by prior attack from the mirid bug, Tupiocoris notatus (Dicyphus minimus), which results from the elicitation of two categories of induced plant responses. First, attack from both herbivore species causes the plants in nature to release predator-attracting volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the attracted generalist predator, Geocoris pallens, preferentially attacks the less mobile hornworm larvae. Second, attack from both mirids and hornworms increases the accumulation of secondary metabolites and proteinase inhibitors (PIs) in the leaf tissue, which is correlated with the slow growth of Manduca larvae. Mirid damage does not significantly reduce the fitness of the plant in nature, whereas attack from the hornworm reduces lifetime seed production. Consequently, plants that are attacked by mirids realize a significant fitness advantage in environments with both herbivores. The combination of growth-slowing direct defenses and predator-attracting indirect defenses results in greater hornworm mortality on mirid-attacked plants and provides the mechanism of the vaccination phenomenon.

Voelckel, C., and I. T. Baldwin. 2004b. Herbivore-induced plant vaccination. Part II. Array-studies reveal the transience of herbivore-specific transcriptional imprints and a distinct imprint from stress combinations. Plant J. 35: 650-663.

Summary

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.

Halitschke R., J. Hamilton, and A. Kessler. 2011. Herbivore-induced plant vaccination. Part III: Herbivore-specific elicitation of photosynthesis by mirid bug salivary secretions in the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata. New Phytologist 191: 528–535.

Summary