Helicoverpa zea–Associated Gut Bacteria as Drivers in Shaping Plant Anti-herbivore Defense in Tomato

Qinjian Pan, Ikkei Shikano, Tong Xian Liu, Gary W. Felton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2173-2182
Number of pages10
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Helicoverpa zea–Associated Gut Bacteria as Drivers in Shaping Plant Anti-herbivore Defense in Tomato'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this