Host plant driven transcriptome plasticity in the salivary glands of the cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni)

Loren J. Rivera-Vega, David A. Galbraith, Christina M. Grozinger, Gary W. Felton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Generalist herbivores feed on a wide array of plants and need to adapt to varying host qualities and defenses. One of the first insect derived secretions to come in contact with the plant is the saliva. Insect saliva is potentially involved in both the pre-digestion of the host plant as well as induction/suppression of plant defenses, yet how the salivary glands respond to changes in host plant at the transcriptional level is largely unknown. The objective of this study was to determine how the labial salivary gland transcriptome varies according to the host plant on which the insect is feeding. In order to determine this, cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) larvae were reared on cabbage, tomato, and pinto bean artificial diet. Labial glands were dissected from fifth instar larvae and used to extract RNA for RNASeq analysis. Assembly of the resulting sequencing reads resulted in a transcriptome library for T. ni salivary glands consisting of 14,037 expressed genes. Feeding on different host plant diets resulted in substantial remodeling of the gland transcriptomes, with 4,501 transcripts significantly differentially expressed across the three treatment groups. Gene expression profiles were most similar between cabbage and artificial diet, which corresponded to the two diets on which larvae perform best. Expression of several transcripts involved in detoxification processes were differentially expressed, and transcripts involved in the spliceosome pathway were significantly downregulated in tomato-reared larvae. Overall, this study demonstrates that the transcriptomes of the salivary glands of the cabbage looper are strongly responsive to diet. It also provides a foundation for future functional studies that can help us understand the role of saliva of chewing insects in plant-herbivore interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0182636
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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