No time for candy: passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) plants down-regulate damage-induced extra floral nectar production in response to light signals of competition
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Plant fitness is often defined by the combined effects of herbivory and competition, and plants must strike a delicate balance between their ability to capture limiting resources and defend against herbivore attack. Many plants use indirect defenses, such as volatile compounds and extrafloral nectaries (EFN), to attract canopy arthropods that are natural enemies of herbivorous organisms. While recent evidence suggests that upon perception of low red to far-red (R:FR) ratios, which signal the proximity of competitors, plants down-regulate resource allocation to direct chemical defenses, it is unknown if a similar phytochrome-mediated response occurs for indirect defenses. We evaluated the interactive effects of R:FR ratio and simulated herbivory on nectar production by EFNs of passionfruit (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa). The activity of petiolar EFNs dramatically increased in response to simulated herbivory and hormonal treatment with methyl jasmonate (MeJA). Low R:FR ratios, which induced a classic “shade-avoidance” repertoire of increased stem elongation in P. edulis, strongly suppressed the EFN response triggered by simulated herbivory or MeJA application. Strikingly, the EFN response to wounding and light quality was localized to the branches that received the treatments. In vines like P. edulis, a local response would allow the plants to precisely adjust their light harvesting and defense phenotypes to the local conditions encountered by individual branches when foraging for resources in patchy canopies. Consistent with the emerging paradigm that phytochrome regulation of jasmonate signaling is a central modulator of adaptive phenotypic plasticity, our results demonstrate that light quality is a strong regulator of indirect defenses.
KeywordsIndirect defenses Herbivory Extrafloral nectaries Jasmonate Phytochrome Passiflora
This work was financially supported by CONICET, ANPCyT and UBACyT. We thank Amy Austin for thoughtful comments on the manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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