Modulation of flavonoid metabolites in Arabidopsis thaliana through overexpression of the MYB75 transcription factor: role of kaempferol-3,7-dirhamnoside in resistance to the specialist insect herbivore Pieris brassicae

Nawaporn Onkokesung, Michael Reichelt, Arjen van Doorn, Robert C Schuurink, Joop J A van Loon, Marcel Dicke
Journal of Experimental Botany 2014, 65 (8): 2203-17
Anthocyanins and flavonols are secondary metabolites that can function in plant defence against herbivores. In Arabidopsis thaliana, anthocyanin and flavonol biosynthesis are regulated by MYB transcription factors. Overexpression of MYB75 (oxMYB75) in Arabidopsis results in increasing anthocyanin and flavonol levels which enhances plant resistance to generalist caterpillars. However, how these metabolites affect specialist herbivores has remained unknown. Performance of a specialist aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae) was unaffected after feeding on oxMYB75 plants, whereas a specialist caterpillar (Pieris brassicae) gained significantly higher body mass when feeding on this plant. An increase in anthocyanin and total flavonol glycoside levels correlated negatively with the body mass of caterpillars fed on oxMYB75 plants. However, a significant reduction of kaempferol-3,7-dirhamnoside (KRR) corresponded to an increased susceptibility of oxMYB75 plants to caterpillar feeding. Pieris brassicae caterpillars also grew less on an artificial diet containing KRR or on oxMYB75 plants that were exogenously treated with KRR, supporting KRR's function in direct defence against this specialist caterpillar. The results show that enhancing the activity of the anthocyanin pathway in oxMYB75 plants results in re-channelling of quercetin/kaempferol metabolites which has a negative effect on the accumulation of KRR, a novel defensive metabolite against a specialist caterpillar.

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