Decreased emergence of emerald ash borer from ash treated with methyl jasmonate is associated with induction of general defense traits and the toxic phenolic compound verbascoside

Abstract

The emerald ash borer (EAB; Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) is causing widespread mortality of ash (Fraxinus spp.) in North America. To date, no mechanisms of host resistance have been identified against this pest. Methyl jasmonate was applied to susceptible North American and resistant Asian ash species to determine if it can elicit induced responses in bark that enhance resistance to EAB. In particular, phenolic compounds, lignin, and defense-related proteins were quantified, and compounds associated with resistance were subsequently tested directly against EAB larvae in bioassays with artificial diet. MeJA application decreased adult emergence in susceptible ash species, comparable to levels achieved by insecticide application. Concentration of the phenolic compound verbascoside sharply increased after MeJA application to green and white ash. When incorporated in an artificial diet, verbascoside decreased survival and growth of EAB neonates in a dose-dependent fashion. Lignin and trypsin inhibitors were also induced by MeJA, and analogs of both compounds reduced growth of EAB larvae in artificial diets. We conclude that the application of MeJA prior to EAB attack has the ability to enhance resistance of susceptible ash trees by inducing endogenous plant defenses, and report evidence that induction of verbascoside is a mechanism of resistance to EAB.

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Acknowledgments

Bailey Nurseries, Inc (St. Paul, MN, USA) and Jennifer Koch (USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Delaware, OH, USA) provided trees used in this study. We thank David S. Bienemann, Municipal Arborist, City of Bowling Green, Ohio, USA for providing the site for the ash plantation, and for his assistance with establishing and maintaining the trees. We thank Bryant Chambers, Diane Hartzler, other members of the Herms Lab, and Ohio State University Extension Master Gardeners for their help planting the trees. We also thank Bryant Chambers for making the insecticide applications, and Karla Medina-Ortega, Nathan Kleczewski, Gerardo Suazo and Dan Davis for technical assistance. Dr. Brian McSpadden-Gardener provided help with statistical analyses and guidance on aspects dealing with the experimental design. We also thank Scott Williams for help in the implementation and execution of the experiment as well as processing and analyses of samples. EAB eggs for diet bioassays were supplied by Jonathan Lelito (USDA APHIS PPQ) and artificial diet was provided by Melody Keena (USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Center for Forest Health Research, Northern Research Station in Hamden, CT, USA). This project was funded by the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund, the Horticultural Research Institute, Ohio Plant Biotechnology Consortium, USDA APHIS Accelerated Emerald Ash Borer Research Program, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, and by state and federal funds appropriated to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, The Ohio State University, and Wright State University. We are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for suggesting ways to improve the clarity of the paper.

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Correspondence to Justin G. A. Whitehill.

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Communicated by Merijn Kant.

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Whitehill, J.G.A., Rigsby, C., Cipollini, D. et al. Decreased emergence of emerald ash borer from ash treated with methyl jasmonate is associated with induction of general defense traits and the toxic phenolic compound verbascoside. Oecologia 176, 1047–1059 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3082-8

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Keywords

  • Agrilus planipennis
  • Biological invasions
  • Fraxinus
  • Induced resistance
  • Plant–herbivore interactions