Effects of three years’ increase in density of the geometrid Epirrita autumnata on the change in metabolome of mountain birch trees (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii)
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The principal objective of the study was to characterize effects of increasing density of the autumnal moth, Epirrita autumnata (Lepidoptera, Geometridae), for 3 successive years on the change in metabolome of mountain birch trees (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii). During the three study years (2000–2002), the larval density varied from low to very high (outbreak) density. Samples of leaves were collected from the same 12 trees at the same phenological stage of the trees each year. The leaves were collected from undamaged trees in the first year, from trees slightly damaged by larvae in the second year, and from trees heavily damaged by larvae in the third year. Metabolome analysis showed that the increase in density of E. autumnata larvae and degree of damage of birch trees caused multiple biochemical changes in the leaves, including increased concentrations of phenolic compounds (proanthocyanidins and hydrolysable tannins) and reduced concentrations of nutritive metabolites (monosaccharides, amino acids and some organic acids). These changes reduced the quality of leaves as food for larvae and, probably, were associated with induced chemical resistance of the birches to herbivorous insects. Additionally, the concentration of α-tocopherol was significantly higher in both slightly and heavily damaged trees. Mechanisms of changes in the metabolism of phenolic compounds and carbohydrates, and the role of α-tocopherol in their regulation are discussed.
KeywordsBirch Carbohydrates Herbivore Induced resistance Metabolomics Phenolic compounds α-Tocopherol
We thank Jeffrey Ahern for valuable comments and for checking the English. We express the warmest gratitude to the staff of the Kevo Subarctic Research Station and field assistants. The study was supported financially by the Academy of Finland, projects 48697 (to KR) and 201073 (to VO).
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