Anthocyanin pigments and associated flavonoids have demonstrated antioxidant properties and benefits for human health. Consequently, current plant bioengineers have focused on how to modify flavonoid metabolism in plants. Most of that research, however, does not consider the role of natural biotic stresses (e.g., herbivore attack). To understand the influence of herbivore attack on the metabolic engineering of flavonoids, we examined tobacco plants overexpressing the Arabidopsis PAP1 gene (encoding an MYB transcription factor), which accumulated anthocyanin pigments and other flavonoids/ phenylpropanoids. In comparison to wild-type and control plants, transgenic plants exhibited greater resistance to Spodoptera Iitura. Moreover, herbivory suppressed the PAP1 -induced increase of transcripts of flavonoid/phenylpropanoid biosynthetic genes (e.g., F3H) and the subsequent accumulation of these genes' metabolites, despite the unaltered PAP1 mRNA levels after herbivory. The instances of down-regulation were independent of the signaling pathways mediated by defense-related jasmonates but were relevant to the levels of PAP1-induced and herbivory-suppressed transcription factors, Anla and Ani b. Although initially F3H transcripts were suppressed by herbivory, after the 5. Iitura feeding was interrupted, F3H transcripts increased. We hypothesize that in transgenic plants responding to herbivory, there is a complex mechanism regulating enriched flavonoid/phenylpropanoid compounds, via biotic stress signals.
ASJC Scopus subject areas