, Volume 38, Issue 11, pp 1376-1386

Cross-Kingdom Effects of Plant-Plant Signaling via Volatile Organic Compounds Emitted by Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Plants Infested by the Greenhouse Whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum)

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Abstract

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from plants in response to insect infestation can function as signals for the attraction of predatory/parasitic insects and/or repulsion of herbivores. VOCs also may play a role in intra- and inter-plant communication. In this work, the kinetics and composition of VOC emissions produced by tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants infested with the greenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum was determined within a 14 days period. The VOC emission profiles varied concomitantly with the duration of whitefly infestation. A total of 36 different VOCs were detected during the experiment, 26 of which could be identified: 23 terpenoids, plus decanal, decane, and methyl salicylate (MeSA). Many VOCs were emitted exclusively by infested plants, including MeSA and 10 terpenoids. In general, individual VOC emissions increased as the infestation progressed, particularly at 7 days post-infestation (dpi). Additional tunnel experiments showed that a 3 days exposure to VOC emissions from whitefly-infested plants significantly reduced infection by a biotrophic bacterial pathogen. Infection of VOC-exposed plants induced the expression of a likely tomato homolog of a methyl salicylate esterase gene, which preceded the expression of pathogenesis-related protein genes. This expression pattern correlated with reduced susceptibility in VOC-exposed plants. The observed cross-kingdom effect of plant-plant signaling via VOCs probably represents a generalized defensive response that contributes to increased plant fitness, considering that resistance responses to whiteflies and biotrophic bacterial pathogens in tomato share many common elements.