Does Gamma-aminobutyric acid function as a plant resistance mechanism against phytophagous insect activity? /
MacGregor, Kennaway Byron.
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Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GAB A) is a ubiquitous non-protein amino acid synthesized via the decarboxylation of L-glutamate in a reaction catalyzed by the cytosolic enzyme L-glutamate decarboxylase (GAD). In animals it functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. In plants it accumulates rapidly in response to various stresses, but its function remains unclear. The hypothesis that GABA accumulation in leaf tissue may function as a plant resistance mechanism against phytophagous insect activity was investigated. GABA accumulation in response to mechanical stimulation, mechanical damage and insect activity was demonstrated. In wt tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv Samsun), mechanical stimulation or damage caused GABA to accumulate within 2 min from mean levels of 14 to 37 and 1~9 nmol g-l fresh weight (FW), respectively. In the transgenic tobacco strain CaMVGAD27c overexpressing Petunia GAD, the same treatments caused GABA to accumulate from 12 to 59 and 279 nmol g-l FW, respectively. In the transgenic tobacco strain CaMVGADilC 11 overexpressing Petunia GAD lacking an autoinhibitory domain, mechanical stimulation or damage caused GABA to accumulate from 180 to 309 and 630 nmol g-l FW, respectively. Ambulatory activity by tobacco budworm (TBW) larvae (Heliothis virescens) on leaves of CaMVGAD27c tobacco caused GABA to accumulate from 28 to 80 nmol g-l FW within 5 min. Ambulatory and leaf-rolling activity by oblique banded leaf roller (OBLR) larvae (Choristoneura rosaceana cv Harris) on wt soybean leaves (Glycine max cv Harovinton) caused GABA to accumulate from 60 to 1123 nmol g-l FW within 20 min. Increased GABA levels in leaf tissue were shown to affect phytophagous preference in TBW larvae presented with wt and transgenic tobacco leaves. When presented with leaves of Samsun wt and CaMVGAD27c plants, TBW larvae consumed more wt leaf tissue (640 ± 501 S.D. mm2 ) than transgenic leaf tissue (278 ± 338 S.D. mm2 ) nine times out of ten. When presented with leaves of Samsun wt and CaMVGAD~C11 plants, TBW larvae consumed more transgenic leaf tissue (1219 ± 1009 S.D. mm2 ) than wt leaf tissue (28 ± 31 S.D. mm2 ) ten times out of ten. These results indicate that: (1) ambulatory activity of insect larvae on leaves results in increased GABA levels, (2) transgenic tobacco leaves with increased capacity for GABA synthesis deter feeding, and (3) transgenic tobacco leaves with constitutively higher GABA levels stimulate feeding.