Insect-associated bacteria can mediate the intersection of insect and plant immunity. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the effects of single isolates or communities of gut-associated bacteria of Helicoverpa zea larvae on herbivore-induced defenses in tomato. We first identified bacterial isolates from the regurgitant of field-collected H. zea larvae by using a culture-dependent method and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We identified 11 isolates belonging to the families Enterobacteriaceae, Streptococcaceae, Yersiniaceae, Erwiniaceae, and unclassified Enterobacterales. Seven different bacterial isolates, namely Enterobacteriaceae-1, Lactococcus sp., Klebsiella sp. 1, Klebsiella sp. 3, Enterobacterales, Enterobacteriaceae-2, and Pantoea sp., were selected based on their phylogenetic relationships to test their impacts on insect-induced plant defenses. We found that the laboratory population of H. zea larvae inoculated with individual isolates did not induce plant anti-herbivore defenses, whereas larvae inoculated with a bacterial community (combination of the 7 bacterial isolates) triggered increased polyphenol oxidase (PPO) activity in tomato, leading to retarded larval development. Additionally, field-collected H. zea larvae with an unaltered bacterial community in their gut stimulated higher plant defenses than the larvae with a reduced gut microbial community. In summary, our findings highlight the importance of the gut microbial community in mediating interactions between herbivores and their host plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science