Insect galls are highly specialized structures arising from atypical development of plant tissue induced by insects. Galls provide the insect enhanced nutrition and protection against natural enemies and environmental stresses. Galls are essentially plant organs formed by an intimate biochemical interaction between the gall-inducing insect and its host plant. Because galls are plant organs, their development is likely to be governed by phytohormones involved in normal organogenesis. We characterized concentrations of both growth and defensive phytohormones in ungalled control leaves and galls induced by the aphid Pemphigus betae on narrowleaf cottonwood Populus angustifolia that differ genotypically in resistance to this insect. We found that susceptible trees differed from resistant trees in constitutive concentrations of both growth and defense phytohormones. Susceptible trees were characterized by significantly higher constitutive cytokinin concentrations in leaves, significantly greater ability of aphids to elicit cytokinin increases, and significantly lower constitutive defense phytohormone concentrations than observed in resistant trees. Phytohormone concentrations in both constitutive and induced responses in galled leaves exhibited high broad-sense heritability that, respectively, ranged from 0.39 to 0.93 and from 0.28 to 0.66, suggesting that selection can act upon these traits and that they might vary across the landscape. Increased cytokinin concentrations may facilitate forming strong photosynthate sinks in the galls, a requirement for galling insect success. By characterizing for the first time the changes in 15 phytohormones belonging to five different classes, this study offers a better overview of the signaling alteration occurring in galls that has likely been important for their ecology and evolution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agronomy and Crop Science