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Targeted plant defense: silicon conserves hormonal defense signaling impacting chewing but not fluid‐feeding herbivores

Johnson, S. N. ORCID:, Hartley, S. E., Ryalls, J. M. W. ORCID:, Frew, A. ORCID: and Hall, C. R. (2021) Targeted plant defense: silicon conserves hormonal defense signaling impacting chewing but not fluid‐feeding herbivores. Ecology, 102 (3). e03250. ISSN 0012-9658

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3250


Plants deploy an arsenal of chemical and physical defenses against arthropod herbivores, but it may be most cost efficient to produce these only when attacked. Herbivory activates complex signaling pathways involving several phytohormones, including jasmonic acid (JA), which regulate production of defensive compounds. The Poaceae also have the capacity to take up large amounts of silicon (Si), which accumulates in plant tissues. Si accumulation has antiherbivore properties, but it is poorly understood how Si defenses relate to defense hormone signaling. Here we show that Si enrichment causes the model grass Brachypodium distachyon to show lower levels of JA induction when attacked by chewing herbivores. Triggering this hormone even at lower concentrations, however, prompts Si uptake and physical defenses (e.g., leaf hairs), which negatively impact chewing herbivores. Removal of leaf hairs restored performance. Crucially, activation of such Si‐based defense is herbivore‐specific and occurred only in response to chewing and not fluid‐feeding (aphid) herbivores. This aligned with our meta‐analysis of 88 studies that showed Si defenses were more effective against chewing herbivores than fluid feeders. Our results suggest integration between herbivore defenses in a model Si‐accumulating plant, which potentially allows it to avoid unnecessary activation of other costly defenses.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:96557

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