Helicoverpa zea gut-associated bacteria indirectly induce defenses in tomato by triggering a salivary elicitor(s)

Jie Wang, Michelle Peiffer, Kelli Hoover, Cristina Rosa, Rensen Zeng, Gary W. Felton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Insect gut-associated microbes modulating plant defenses have been observed in beetles and piercing-sucking insects, but the role of caterpillar-associated bacteria in regulating plant induced defenses has not been adequately examined. We identified bacteria from the regurgitant of field-collected Helicoverpa zea larvae using 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequencing and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry. A combination of biochemical, molecular, and confocal electron microscopy methods were used to determine the role of caterpillar-associated bacteria in mediating defenses in Solanum lycopersicum (tomato). Laboratory-reared H. zea inoculated with one of the bacteria identified in field-collected H. zea, Enterobacter ludwigii, induced expression of the tomato defense-related enzyme polyphenol oxidase and genes regulated by jasmonic acid (JA), whereas the salicylic acid (SA)-responsive pathogenesis-related gene was suppressed. Additionally, saliva and its main component glucose oxidase from inoculated caterpillars played an important role in elevating tomato anti-herbivore defenses. However, there were only low detectable amounts of regurgitant or bacteria on H. zea-damaged tomato leaves. Our results suggest that H. zea gut-associated bacteria indirectly mediate plant–insect interactions by triggering salivary elicitors. These findings provide a proof of concept that introducing gut bacteria to a herbivore may provide a novel approach to pest management through indirect induction of plant resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1294-1306
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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