The Myriad Plant Responses to Herbivores
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Plant responses to herbivores are complex. Genes activated on herbivore attack are strongly correlated with the mode of herbivore feeding and the degree of tissue damage at the feeding site. Phloem-feeding whiteflies and aphids that produce little injury to plant foliage are perceived as pathogens and activate the salicylic acid (SA)-dependent and jasmonic acid (JA)/ethylene-dependent signaling pathways. Differential expression of plant genes in response to closely related insect species suggest that some elicitors generated by phloem-feeding insects are species-specific and are dependent on the herbivore's developmental stage. Other elicitors for defense-gene activation are likely to be more ubiquitous. Analogies to the pathogen-incompatible reactions are found. Chewing insects such as caterpillars and beetles and cell-content feeders such as mites and thrips cause more extensive tissue damage and activate wound-signaling pathways. Herbivore feeding is not equivalent to mechanical wounding. Wound responses are a part of the induced responses that accompany herbivore feeding. Herbivores induce direct defenses that interfere with herbivore feeding, growth and development, fecundity, and fertility. In addition, herbivores induce an array of volatiles that creates an indirect mechanism of defense. Volatile blends provide specific cues to attract herbivore parasites and predators to infested plants. The nature of the elicitors for volatile production is discussed.
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