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Open Access Research article

NaMYC2 transcription factor regulates a subset of plant defense responses in Nicotiana attenuata

Melkamu G Woldemariam1, Son Truong Dinh1, Youngjoo Oh1, Emmanuel Gaquerel1, Ian T Baldwin1 and Ivan Galis2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans Knöll Straße 8, D-07745, Jena, Germany

2 Present address: Institute of Plant Science and Resources, Okayama University, 2-20-1, Kurashiki 710-0046, Japan

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:73  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-73

Published: 1 May 2013

Abstract

Background

To survive herbivore attack, plants have evolved potent mechanisms of mechanical or chemical defense that are either constitutively present or inducible after herbivore attack. Due to the costs of defense deployment, plants often regulate their biosynthesis using various transcription factors (TFs). MYC2 regulators belong to the bHLH family of transcription factors that are involved in many aspects of plant defense and development. In this study, we identified a novel MYC2 TF from N. attenuata and characterized its regulatory function using a combination of molecular, analytic and ecological methods.

Results

The transcript and targeted metabolite analyses demonstrated that NaMYC2 is mainly involved in the regulation of the biosynthesis of nicotine and phenolamides in N. attenuata. In addition, using broadly-targeted metabolite analysis, we identified a number of other metabolite features that were regulated by NaMYC2, which, after full annotation, are expected to broaden our understanding of plant defense regulation. Unlike previous reports, the biosynthesis of jasmonates and some JA-/NaCOI1-dependent metabolites (e.g. HGL-DTGs) were not strongly regulated by NaMYC2, suggesting the involvement of other independent regulators. No significant differences were observed in the performance of M. sexta on MYC2-silenced plants, consistent with the well-known ability of this specialist insect to tolerate nicotine.

Conclusion

By regulating the biosynthesis of nicotine, NaMYC2 is likely to enhance plant resistance against non-adapted herbivores and contribute to plant fitness; however, multiple JA/NaCOI1-dependent mechanisms (perhaps involving other MYCs) that regulate separate defense responses are likely to exist in N. attenuata. The considerable variation observed amongst different plant families in the responses regulated by jasmonate signaling highlights the sophistication with which plants craft highly specific and fine-tuned responses against the herbivores that attack them.

Keywords:
bHLH; Manduca sexta; MYC2; Transcription factors; Nicotiana attenuata; Nicotine; Phenolamides; Plant-insect interactions; Transcriptional regulation