Maize Biochemical Defences against a Rootworm Were Mediated by Domestication, Spread, and Breeding Institutional Repository Document uri icon


  • ABSTRACTPlant physiological processes generally are regulated by phytohormones, including plant biochemical responses to herbivory. Here, we addressed whether a suite of maize (Zea mays mays) phytohormones, including some precursor and derivative metabolites, relevant to herbivory defence were mediated by the crops domestication, northward spread, and modern breeding. For this, we compared phytohormone and metabolite levels among four plant types representing the evolutionary and agronomic transitions from maizes wild ancestor, Balsas teosinte (Zea mays parviglumis), to Mexican and US maize landraces, and to highly-bred US maize cultivars, as affected by root herbivory by Western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera). Following ecological-evolutionary hypotheses, we expected to find changes in: (i) maize defence strategy, from reliance on induced to constitutive defences; (ii) levels of phytohormones relevant to herbivore resistance consistent with gradual weakening of defences, and; (iii) levels of a phytohormone relevant to herbivory tolerance because it positively affects plant growth. We found that with its domestication, maize seemed to have transitioned from reliance on induced defences in Balsas teosinte to reliance on constitutive defences in maize. Also, we found that while one subset of phytohormones relevant to herbivory was suppressed (13-oxylipins), another was enhanced (9-oxylipins) with domestication, and both subsets were variably affected by spread and breeding. Finally, an auxin phytohormone directly linked to growth (indole-3-acetic acid), increased significantly with domestication, and seemingly with spread and breeding. We concluded that rootworm defences in maize were mediated by domestication and ensuing processes, such as spread and breeding, and argued that agricultural intensification mediated maize defence evolution in parallel with modern breeding.

altmetric score

  • 3.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Fontes-Puebla, A. A., Borrego, E. J., Kolomiets, M. V., & Bernal, J. S.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Fontes-Puebla, Ana A||Borrego, Eli J||Kolomiets, Michael V||Bernal, Julio S

Book Title

  • bioRxiv

publication date

  • June 2020