Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 531–541 | Cite as

Jasmonate-induced defenses in tomato against Helicoverpa armigera depend in part on nutrient availability, but artificial induction via methyl jasmonate does not

  • Ching-Wen Tan
  • Shu-Ya Chiang
  • Kaliova Tavou Ravuiwasa
  • Jitendra Yadav
  • Shaw-Yhi Hwang
Original Paper


The effects of synthetic phytohormones, such as jasmonic acid (JA) and methyl jasmonate (MeJA), on induced plant defenses and protection against herbivores have been well documented. Previous research on tomatoes has shown that exogenous JA and MeJA can elevate the activities of defensive enzymes, like polyphenol oxidases (PPOs) and proteinase inhibitors (PIs), and reduce the performance of herbivores. While such defenses are believed to depend on the availability of resources for the plant, data on the relationship between nutrient availability and tomato JA defenses are scarce. For this study, we grew cultivated tomatoes under different nutrient regimes, that is, high, moderate, or low, and sprayed them with 1.5 mM MeJA or a control solution to assess (1) the oviposition preference of Helicoverpa armigera moths for these plants; (2) the plant’s total nitrogen and protein content; (3) the plant’s PPO and PI activity; and finally (4) the performance of H. armigera larvae on these plants. The results revealed that adult moths selecting an oviposition site did not discriminate between the treatments. Plants had a higher N-content when grown under a high-nutrient regime, but did not differ in total protein, irrespective of the MeJA treatment. Also, PPO activity was the same across treatments, but trypsin inhibitor (TPI) activity was highest in plants grown under a moderate fertilization regime. MeJA-induced TPI activity in all treatments was high but equal. Larvae had the highest weight gain on plants grown under a moderate fertilization regime. Interestingly, they stopped feeding on plants induced with MeJA, resulting in 100 % mortality. Our results indicate that the plant’s normal TPI activity is maximal under moderate-nutrient conditions and that this, surprisingly, coincides with maximal larval weight gain. In contrast, induction of TPI activity via MeJA is much stronger and independent of the plant’s fertilization history yet suffices to make the larvae stop feeding. We speculate that a moderate induction of TPI activity may result in a compensatory feeding response while inducing a high level of TPI activity will lead to enhanced protection.


Methyl jasmonate (MeJA) Nutrient availability Tomato Polyphenol oxidase (PPO) Trypsin inhibitor (TPI) Helicoverpa armigera 



We thank Crystal Lee, Roger Haesevoets, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ching-Wen Tan
    • 1
  • Shu-Ya Chiang
    • 1
  • Kaliova Tavou Ravuiwasa
    • 1
  • Jitendra Yadav
    • 1
  • Shaw-Yhi Hwang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyNational Chung Hsing UniversityTaichungTaiwan, ROC

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