Transcriptional profiling of methyl jasmonate-induced defense responses in bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBenevenuto, R. F., Seldal, T., Hegland, S. J., Rodriguez-Saona, C., Kawash, J., & Polashock, J. (2019). Transcriptional profiling of methyl jasmonate-induced defense responses in bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.). BMC Plant Biology, 19. 10.1186/s12870-019-1650-0
Background Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) is one of the most abundant wild berries in the Northern European ecosystems. This species plays an important ecological role as a food source for many vertebrate and invertebrate herbivores. It is also well-recognized for its bioactive compounds, particularly substances involved in natural defenses against herbivory. These defenses are known to be initiated by leaf damage (e.g. chewing by insects) and mediated by activation of the jasmonic acid (JA) signaling pathway. This pathway can be activated by exogenous application of methyl jasmonate (MeJA), the volatile derivative of JA, which is often used to stimulate plant defense responses in studies of plant-herbivore interactions at ecological, biochemical, and molecular organismal levels. As a proxy for herbivore damage, wild V. myrtillus plants were treated in the field with MeJA and changes in gene expression were compared to untreated plants. Results The de novo transcriptome assembly consisted of 231,887 unigenes. Nearly 71% of the unigenes were annotated in at least one of the databases interrogated. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs), between MeJA-treated and untreated control bilberry plants were identified using DESeq. A total of 3590 DEGs were identified between the treated and control plants, with 2013 DEGs upregulated and 1577 downregulated. The majority of the DEGs identified were associated with primary and secondary metabolism pathways in plants. DEGs associated with growth (e.g. those encoding photosynthesis-related components) and reproduction (e.g. flowering control genes) were frequently down-regulated while those associated with defense (e.g. encoding enzymes involved in biosynthesis of flavonoids, lignin compounds, and deterrent/repellent volatile organic compounds) were up-regulated in the MeJA treated plants. Conclusions Ecological studies are often limited by controlled conditions to reduce the impact of environmental effects. The results from this study support the hypothesis that bilberry plants, growing in natural conditions, shift resources from growth and reproduction to defenses while in a MeJA-induced state, as when under insect attack. This study highlights the occurrence of this trade-off at the transcriptional level in a realistic field scenario and supports published field observations wherein plant growth is retarded and defenses are upregulated.