, Volume 161, Issue 1, pp 35-41
Date: 06 May 2009

Role of cysteine proteinase inhibitors in preference of Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) for soybean (Glycine max) leaves of different ages and grown under elevated CO2

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Elevated levels of CO2, equivalent to those projected to occur under global climate change scenarios, increase the susceptibility of soybean foliage to herbivores by down-regulating the expression of genes related to the defense hormones jasmonic acid and ethylene; these in turn decrease the gene expression and activity of cysteine proteinase inhibitors (CystPIs), the principal antiherbivore defenses in foliage. To examine the effects of elevated CO2 on the preference of Japanese beetle (JB; Popillia japonica) for leaves of different ages within the plant, soybeans were grown at the SoyFACE facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When given a choice, JB consistently inflicted greater levels of damage on older leaves than on younger leaves, and there was a trend for a greater preference for young leaves grown under elevated CO2 compared to those grown under ambient CO2. More heavily damaged older leaves and those grown under elevated CO2 had reduced CystPI activity, and JB that consumed leaves with lower CystPI activity had correspondingly greater gut proteinase activity. Younger leaves with higher CystPI activity and photosynthetic rates may contribute disproportionately to plant fitness and are more protected against herbivore attack than older foliage. Cysteine proteinase inhibitors are potent defenses against JB, and the effectiveness of this defense is modulated by growth under elevated CO2 as well as leaf position.

Communicated by Andrea Polle.