Feeding of sucking insects, such as the rice brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens; BPH), causes only limited mechanical damage on plants that is otherwise essential for injury-triggered defense responses against herbivores. In pursuit of complementary BPH elicitors perceived by plants, we examined the potential effects of BPH honeydew secretions on the BPH monocot host, rice (Oryza sativa). We found that BPH honeydew strongly elicits direct and putative indirect defenses in rice, namely accumulation of phytoalexins in the leaves, and release of volatile organic compounds from the leaves that serve to attract natural enemies of herbivores, respectively. We then examined the elicitor active components in the honeydew and found that bacteria in the secretions are responsible for the activation of plant defense. Corroborating the importance of honeydew-associated microbiota for induced plant resistance, BPHs partially devoid of their microbiota via prolonged antibiotics ingestion induced significantly less defense in rice relative to antibiotic-free insects applied to similar groups of plants. Our data suggest that rice plants may additionally perceive herbivores via their honeydew-associated microbes, allowing them to discriminate between incompatible herbivores-that do not produce honeydew-and those that are compatible and therefore dangerous.
- Honeydew-associated microorganisms
- plant defense
- rice (Oryza sativa)
- rice brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens)
- sucking insect
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science