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Keywords:

  • Density-dependent induction;
  • genotype-by-environment interaction;
  • pigment glands;
  • herbivory;
  • induced plant defense;
  • plant-insect interactions;
  • plasticity

Abstract

Cotton plants contain suites of phytochemicals thought to be important in defense against herbivores, some of which are localized in pigment glands which contain gossypol and other terpenoid aldehydes. The simple genetic basis for the expression of these glands has led to the development of near-isogenic glanded and glandless genotypes. Glands may also be phenotypically induced by herbivory. We determined the consequences of constitutive and induced gland expression on two types of herbivores, spider mites (cell content feeders) and noctuid caterpillars (leaf chewers).

Induction of glands was strongly dependent on the density of attackers. Spider mite herbivory on cotyledons (1) increased the density (but not total number) of glands on cotyledons linearly, (2) increased the density and total number of glands on the first true leaf linearly, and (3) affected the density and total number of glands on the second true leaf non-linearly, compared to controls. Neither constitutive nor induced expression of glands affected mite population growth. An equal reduction of mite population size on induced glanded and glandless plants (50%) relative to uninduced controls indicated that factors other than glands were associated with induced resistance to mites. Constitutive gland expression had a strong negative impact on caterpillar performance, reducing growth by 45%. Induced resistance to caterpillars was three times stronger in glanded genotypes than in glandless genotypes, indicating that factors associated with induced resistance to caterpillars are strongly associated with glands. Three cotton varieties were highly variable in their constitutive and induced resistance to mites and caterpillars.

Thus, defense of cotton plants against herbivores can be roughly categorized as constitutive and inducible factors associated with terpenoid aldehyde containing pigment glands that are effective against caterpillars, and factors not associated with glands that are effective against mites.