Differences in Monoterpene Biosynthesis and Accumulation in Pistacia palaestina Leaves and Aphid-Induced Galls.J Chem Ecol. 2017 Feb; 43(2):143-152.JC
Certain insect species can induce gall formation on numerous plants species. Although the mechanism of gall development is largely unknown, it is clear that insects manipulate their hosts' anatomy, physiology, and chemistry for their own benefit. It is well known that insect-induced galls often contain vast amounts of plant defensive compounds as compared to non-colonized tissues, but it is not clear if defensive compounds can be produced in situ in the galled tissues. To answer this question, we analyzed terpene accumulation patterns and possible independent biosynthetic potential of galls induced by the aphid Baizongia pistaciae L. on the terminal buds of Pistacia palaestina Boiss. We compared monoterpene levels and monoterpene synthase enzyme activity in galls and healthy leaves from individual trees growing in a natural setting. At all developmental stages, monoterpene content and monoterpene synthase activity were consistently (up to 10 fold on a fresh weight basis) higher in galls than in intact non-colonized leaves. A remarkable tree to tree variation in the products produced in vitro from the substrate geranyl diphosphate by soluble protein extracts derived from individual trees was observed. Furthermore, galls and leaves from the same trees displayed enhanced and often distinct biosynthetic capabilities. Our results clearly indicate that galls possess independent metabolic capacities to produce and accumulate monoterpenes as compared to leaves. Our study indicates that galling aphids manipulate the enzymatic machinery of their host plant, intensifying their own defenses against natural enemies.