Interactions between Bacteria And Aspen Defense Chemicals at the Phyllosphere – Herbivore Interface
Plant- and insect-associated microorganisms encounter a diversity of allelochemicals, and require mechanisms for contending with these often deleterious and broadly-acting compounds. Trembling aspen, Populus tremuloides, contains two principal groups of defenses, phenolic glycosides (salicinoids) and condensed tannins, which differentially affect the folivorous gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, and its gut symbionts. The bacteria genus Acinetobacter is frequently associated with both aspen foliage and gypsy moth consuming that tissue, and one isolate, Acinetobacter sp. R7-1, previously has been shown to metabolize phenolic glycosides. In this study, we aimed to characterize further interactions between this Acinetobacter isolate and aspen secondary metabolites. We assessed bacterial carbon utilization and growth in response to different concentrations of phenolic glycosides and condensed tannins. We also tested if enzyme inhibitors reduce bacterial growth and catabolism of phenolic glycosides. Acinetobacter sp. R7-1 utilized condensed tannins but not phenolic glycosides or glucose as carbon sources. Growth in nutrient-rich medium was increased by condensed tannins, but reduced by phenolic glycosides. Addition of the P450 enzyme inhibitor piperonyl butoxide increased the effects of phenolic glycosides on Acinetobacter sp. R7-1. In contrast, the esterase inhibitor S,S,S,-tributyl-phosphorotrithioate did not affect phenolic glycoside inhibition of bacterial growth. Degradation of phenolic glycosides by Acinetobacter sp. R7-1 appears to alleviate the cytotoxicity of these compounds, rather than provide an energy source. Our results further suggest this bacterium utilizes additional, complementary mechanisms to degrade antimicrobial phytochemicals. Collectively, these results provide insight into mechanisms by which microorganisms contend with their environment within the context of plant-herbivore interactions.