Phytohormone-based activity mapping of insect herbivore-produced elicitors

Eric A. Schmelz, Jurgen Engelberth, Hans T. Alborn, James H. Tumlinson, Peter E.A. Teal

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In response to insect attack, many plants exhibit dynamic biochemical changes, resulting in the induced production of direct and indirect defenses. Elicitors present in herbivore oral secretions are believed to positively regulate many inducible plant defenses; however, little is known about the specificity of elicitor recognition in plants. To investigate the phylogenic distribution of elicitor activity, we tested representatives from three different elicitor classes on the time course of defense-related phytohormone production, including ethylene (E), jasmonic acid (JA), and salicylic acid, in a range of plant species spanning angiosperm diversity. All families examined responded to at least one elicitor class with significant increases in E and JA production within 1 to 2 h after treatment, yet elicitation activity among species was highly idiosyncratic. The fatty-acid amino acid conjugate volicitin exhibited the widest range of phytohormone and volatile inducing activity, which spanned maize (Zea mays), soybean (Glycine max), and eggplant (Solanum melongena). In contrast, the activity of inceptin-related peptides, originally described in cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), was limited even within the Fabaceae. Similarly, caeliferin A16:0, a disulfooxy fatty acid from grasshoppers, was the only elicitor with demonstrable activity in Arabidopsis thaliana. Although precise mechanisms remain unknown, the unpredictable nature of elicitor activity between plant species supports the existence of specific receptor-ligand interactions mediating recognition. Despite the lack of an ideal plant model for studying the action of numerous elicitors, E and JA exist as highly conserved and readily quantifiable markers for future discoveries in this field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-657
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 13 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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