Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comparative transcriptome analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana infested by diamond back moth (Plutella xylostella) larvae reveals signatures of stress response, secondary metabolism, and signalling

Jürgen Ehlting15, Sunita G Chowrira12, Nathalie Mattheus1, Dana S Aeschliman4, Gen-Ichiro Arimura1 and Jörg Bohlmann123*

Author Affiliations

1 Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, 2185 East Mall Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada

2 Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada

3 Department of Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2424 Main Mall Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada

4 Department of Statistics, University of British Columbia, 6356 Agricultural Road, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada

5 Centre for Forest Biology & Department of Biology, University of Victoria, PO Box 3020 TN CSC, Victoria, B.C., V8W 3N5, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:154  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-154

Published: 9 April 2008



Plants are exposed to attack from a large variety of herbivores. Feeding insects can induce substantial changes of the host plant transcriptome. Arabidopsis thaliana has been established as a relevant system for the discovery of genes associated with response to herbivory, including genes for specialized (i.e. secondary) metabolism as well as genes involved in plant-insect defence signalling.


Using a 70-mer oligonulceotide microarray covering 26,090 gene-specific elements, we monitored changes of the Arabidopsis leaf transcriptome in response to feeding by diamond back moth (DBM; Plutella xylostella) larvae. Analysis of samples from a time course of one hour to 24 hours following onset of DBM feeding revealed almost three thousand (2,881) array elements (including 2,671 genes with AGI annotations) that were differentially expressed (>2-fold; p[t-test] < 0.05) of which 1,686 also changed more than twofold in expression between at least two time points of the time course with p(ANOVA) < 0.05. While the majority of these transcripts were up-regulated within 8 h upon onset of insect feeding relative to untreated controls, cluster analysis identified several distinct temporal patterns of transcriptome changes. Many of the DBM-induced genes fall into ontology groups annotated as stress response, secondary metabolism and signalling. Among DBM-induced genes associated with plant signal molecules or phytohormones, genes associated with octadecanoid signalling were clearly overrepresented. We identified a substantial number of differentially expressed genes associated with signal transduction in response to DBM feeding, and we compared there expression profiles with those of previously reported transcriptome responses induced by other insect herbivores, specifically Pieris rapae, Frankliniella occidentalis, Bemisia tabaci,Myzus persicae, and Brevicoryne brassicae.


Arabidopsis responds to feeding DBM larvae with a drastic reprogramming of the transcriptome, which has considerable overlap with the response induced by other insect herbivores. Based on a meta-analysis of microarray data we identified groups of transcription factors that are either affected by multiple forms of biotic or abiotic stress including DBM feeding or, alternatively, were responsive to DBM herbivory but not to most other forms of stress.