Chemical defense, mycorrhizal colonization and growth responses in Plantago lanceolata L.
Allelochemicals defend plants against herbivore and pathogen attack aboveground and belowground. Whether such plant defenses incur ecological costs by reducing benefits from plant mutualistic symbionts is largely unknown. We explored a potential trade-off between inherent plant chemical defense and belowground mutualism with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in Plantago lanceolata L., using plant genotypes from lines selected for low and high constitutive levels of the iridoid glycosides (IG) aucubin and catalpol. As selection was based on IG concentrations in leaves, we first examined whether IG concentrations covaried in roots. Root and leaf IG concentrations were strongly positively correlated among genotypes, indicating genetic interdependence of leaf and root defense. We then found that root AMF arbuscule colonization was negatively correlated with root aucubin concentration. This negative correlation was observed both in plants grown with monocultures of Glomus intraradices and in plants colonized from whole-field soil inoculum. Overall, AMF did not affect total biomass of plants; an enhancement of initial shoot biomass was offset by a lower root biomass and reduced regrowth after defoliation. Although the precise effects of AMF on plant biomass varied among genotypes, plants with high IG levels and low AMF arbuscule colonization in roots did not produce less biomass than plants with low IG and high AMF arbuscule colonization. Therefore, although an apparent trade-off was observed between high root chemical defense and AMF arbuscule colonization, this did not negatively affect the growth responses of the plants to AMF. Interestingly, AMF induced an increase in root aucubin concentration in the high root IG genotype of P. lanceolata. We conclude that AMF does not necessarily stimulate plant growth, that direct plant defense by secondary metabolites does not necessarily reduce potential benefits from AMF, and that AMF can enhance concentrations of root chemical defenses, but that these responses are plant genotype-dependent.
KeywordsPlant–soil interaction Plant allelochemical AMF symbiosis Iridoid glycoside Chemical defense
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