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Keywords:

  • allocation;
  • chlorophyll fluorescence imaging;
  • compensation;
  • herbivore elicitor;
  • Manduca sexta;
  • photosynthetic efficiency;
  • photosystem II;
  • Tupiocoris notatus

Summary

  • Herbivory is thought to be detrimental to plant fitness and commonly results in a metabolic shift in the plant: photosynthetic processes are typically down-regulated, while resource allocation to defenses is increased in herbivore-attacked plants, resulting in fitness costs of induced plant responses.
  • Wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, attacked by Tupiocoris notatus mirid bugs becomes resistant against more damaging herbivores through mirid-induced direct and indirect defenses. However, mirid-induced resistance and tissue loss do not result in a reduction of plant fitness. These findings suggest induced metabolic responses allowing the plant to compensate for the lost tissue and resources allocated to defenses.
  • While feeding by Manduca sexta larvae results in a strong down-regulation of photosynthesis, we demonstrate a specific induction of elevated photosynthetic activity in N. attenuata leaves by elicitors in mirid salivary secretions. The elevated CO2 assimilation rate is sufficient to compensate for the loss of photosynthetically active tissue and balances the net photosynthesis of infested leaves.
  • We discuss the observed increase in the plant’s primary metabolic activity as a mechanism that allows plants to alleviate negative fitness effects of mirid attack and mediates the vaccination effects that result in a net benefit in environments with multiple herbivores.