Insect-induced gene expression at the core of volatile terpene release in Medicago truncatula Academic Article uri icon


  • Plants are important mediators between above- and belowground herbivores. Consequently, interactions between root and shoot defenses can have far-reaching impacts on entire food webs. We recently reported that infestation of maize roots by larvae of the beetle Diabrotica virgifera virgifera induced shoot resistance against herbivores and pathogens. Root herbivory also enhanced aboveground DIMBOA and primed for enhanced induction of chlorogenic acid, two secondary metabolites that have been associated with plant stress resistance. Interestingly, the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) emerged as a putative long-distance signal in the regulation of these systemic defenses. In this addendum, we have investigated the role of root-derived ABA in aboveground regulation of DIMBOA and the phenolic compounds chlorogenic acid, caffeic and ferulic acid. Furthermore, we discuss the relevance of ABA in relation to defense against the leaf herbivore Spodoptera littoralis. Soil-drench treatment with ABA mimicked root herbivore-induced accumulation of DIMBOA in the leaves. Similarly, ABA mimicked aboveground priming of chlorogenic acid production, causing augmented induction of this compound after subsequent shoot attack by S. littoralis caterpillars. These findings confirm our notion that ABA acts as an important signal in the regulation of aboveground defenses during belowground herbivory. However, based on our previous finding that ABA alone is not sufficient to trigger aboveground resistance against S. littoralis caterpillars, our results also suggest that the ABA-inducible effects on DIMBOA and chlorogenic acid are not solely responsible for root herbivore-induced resistance against S. littoralis.

author list (cited authors)

  • Erb, M., Gordon-Weeks, R., Flors, V., CamaƱes, G., Turlings, T., & Ton, J.

citation count

  • 37

publication date

  • July 2009