Ecological Consequences Of Jasmonate-Induced Responses For Plants In Native Populations

cotine, increases after herbivore attack in the native, post-fire annual, Nicotiana attenuata, and is internally activated by the wound-hormone, jasmonic acid. The roots of plants were treated with the methyl ester of this hormone (methyl jasmonate; 500g suspended in 10 ml water, while control members of the pair were treated with 10 ml water) to elicit a response in one member of each of 745 matched pairs of plants growing in native populations in southwestern Utah (USA) with different probabilities of attack from herbivores (primarily rabbits and the larvae of the tobacco specialist, Manduca sexta).The lifetime production of viable seed was measured from all plants to determine the fitness consequences of jasmonate induction.

The results strongly support the cost-benefit model for inducible defenses. Jasmonate treatment significantly increased nicotine concentrations in the leaves of treated plants 22-54% above those of their control, water-treated counterparts. In populations where plants were being heavily attacked (populations IIA, B), nicotine concentrations of leaves from control plants were comparable to those of unattacked jasmonate-induced plants from the other populations, but the effect of jasmonate treatment was retained; clearly, the jasmonate treatment had not saturated the plants' nicotine response. How do these changes affect plant fitness as estimated by their lifetime viable seed production? The answer depends critically on the plant's environment, particularly, the likelihood of herbivore attack.

For plants in environments with high herbivory (the 2-year-old burns, populations IIA, B), the benefit of jasmonate-treatments could be readily seen. For example, in population IIA, 10 days after the treatment, 33% of the control plants had lost more than 40% of their leaf area to herbivores,

Contact: Ian T. Baldwin

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