Nicotiana attenuata plants can distinguish the damage caused by herbivore feeding from other types of damage by perceiving herbivore-associated elicitors, such as the fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) in oral secretions (OS) of Manduca sexta larvae, which are introduced into wounds during feeding. However, the transduction of FAC signals into downstream plant defense responses is still not well established. We identified a novel FAC-regulated protein in N. attenuata (NaHER1; for herbivore elicitor regulated) and show that it is an indispensable part of the OS signal transduction pathway. N. attenuata plants silenced in the expression of NaHER1 by RNA interference (irHER1) were unable to amplify their defenses beyond basal, wound-induced levels in response to OS elicitation. M. sexta larvae performed 2-fold better when reared on irHER1 plants, which released less volatile organic compounds (indirect defense) and had strongly reduced levels of several direct defense metabolites, including trypsin proteinase inhibitors, 17-hydroxygeranyllinallool diterpene glycosides, and caffeoylputrescine, after real and/or simulated herbivore attack. In parallel to impaired jasmonate signaling and metabolism, irHER1 plants were more drought sensitive and showed reduced levels of abscisic acid (ABA) in the leaves, suggesting that silencing of NaHER1 interfered with ABA metabolism. Because treatment of irHER1 plants with ABA results in both the accumulation of significantly more ABA catabolites and the complete restoration of normal wild-type levels of OS-induced defense metabolites, we conclude that NaHER1 acts as a natural suppressor of ABA catabolism after herbivore attack, which, in turn, activates the full defense profile and resistance against herbivores.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science