Host plant-specific remodeling of midgut physiology in the generalist insect herbivore Trichoplusia ni

TitleHost plant-specific remodeling of midgut physiology in the generalist insect herbivore Trichoplusia ni
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsM, H, GA, H
Date Published2014
KeywordsArabidopsis thaliana; Gut physiology; Herbivore; Jasmonate; Solanum lycopersicum; Transcriptome; Trichoplusia ni

Species diversity in terrestrial ecosystems is influenced by plant defense compounds that alter the behavior, physiology, and host preference of insect herbivores. Although it is established that insects evolved the ability to detoxify specific allelochemicals, the mechanisms by which polyphagous insects cope with toxic compounds in diverse host plants are not well understood. Here, we used defended and non-defended plant genotypes to study how variation in chemical defense affects midgut responses of the lepidopteran herbivore Trichoplusia ni, which is a pest of a wide variety of native and cultivated plants. The genome-wide midgut transcriptional response of T. ni larvae to glucosinolate-based defenses in the crucifer Arabidopsis thaliana was characterized by strong induction of genes encoding Phase I and II detoxification enzymes. In contrast, the response of T. ni to proteinase inhibitors and other jasmonate-regulated defenses in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) was dominated by changes in the expression of digestive enzymes and, strikingly, concomitant repression of transcripts encoding detoxification enzymes. Unbiased proteomic analyses of T. ni feces demonstrated that tomato defenses remodel the complement of digestive enzymes, which was associated with increased amounts of serine proteases and decreased lipase protein abundance upon encountering tomato defense chemistry. These collective results indicate that T. ni adjusts its gut physiology to the presence of host plant-specific chemical defenses, and further suggest that plants may exploit this digestive flexibility as a defensive strategy to suppress the production of enzymes that detoxify allelochemicals. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.