Induced plant defenses in the natural environment: Nicotiana attenuata WRKY3 and WRKY6 coordinate responses to herbivory

Melanie Skibbe, Nan Qu, Ivan Galis, Ian T. Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

151 Citations (Scopus)


A plant-specific family of WRKY transcription factors regulates plant responses to pathogens and abiotic stresses. Here, we identify two insect-responsive WRKY genes in the native tobacco Nicotiana attenuata: WRKY3, whose transcripts accumulate in response to wounding, and WRKY6, whose wound responses are significantly amplified when fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) in larval oral secretions are introduced into wounds during feeding. WRKY3 is required for WRKY6 elicitation, yet neither is elicited by treatment with the phytohormone wound signal jasmonic acid. Silencing either WRKY3 or WRKY6, or both, by stable transformation makes plants highly vulnerable to herbivores under glasshouse conditions and in their native habitat in the Great Basin Desert, Utah, as shown in three field seasons. This susceptibility is associated with impaired jasmonate (JA) accumulation and impairment of the direct (trypsin proteinase inhibitors) and indirect (volatiles) defenses that JA signaling mediates. The response to wounding and herbivore-specific signals (FACs) demonstrates that these WRKYs help plants to differentiate mechanical wounding from herbivore attack, mediating a plant's herbivore-specific defenses. Differences in responses to single and multiple elicitations indicate an important role of WRKY3 and WRKY6 in potentiating and/or sustaining active JA levels during continuous insect attack.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1984-2000
Number of pages17
JournalPlant Cell
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology

Cite this