Plant dependence on rhizobia for nitrogen influences induced plant defenses and herbivore performance

Jennifer M. Dean, Mark C. Mescher, Consuelo M. De Moraes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Symbiotic rhizobia induce many changes in legumes that could affect aboveground interactions with herbivores. We explored how changing the intensity of Bradyrhizobium japonicum, as modulated by soil nitrogen (N) levels, influenced the interaction between soybean (Glycine max) and herbivores of different feeding guilds. When we employed a range of fertilizer applications to manipulate soil N, plants primarily dependent on rhizobia for N exhibited increased root nodulation and higher levels of foliar ureides than plants given N fertilizer; yet all treatments maintained similar total N levels. Soybean podworm (Helicoverpa zea) larvae grew best on plants with the highest levels of rhizobia but, somewhat surprisingly, preferred to feed on high-N-fertilized plants when given a choice. Induction of the defense signaling compound jasmonic acid (JA) by H. zea feeding damage was highest in plants primarily dependent on rhizobia. Differences in rhizobial dependency on soybean did not appear to affect interactions with the phloem-feeding soybean aphid (Aphis glycines). Overall, our results suggest that rhizobia association can affect plant nutritional quality and the induction of defense signaling pathways and that these effects may influence herbivore feeding preferences and performance-though such effects may vary considerably for different classes of herbivores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1466-1480
Number of pages15
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 21 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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