Plants respond to herbivore attack by rapidly inducing defenses that are mainly regulated by jasmonic acid (JA). Due to the systemic nature of induced defenses, attack by root herbivores can also result in a shoot response and vice versa, causing interactions between above- and belowground herbivores. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying these interactions. We investigated whether plants respond differently when roots or shoots are induced. We mimicked herbivore attack by applying JA to the roots or shoots of Brassica oleracea and analyzed molecular and chemical responses in both organs. In shoots, an immediate and massive change in primary and secondary metabolism was observed. In roots, the JA-induced response was less extensive and qualitatively different from that in the shoots. Strikingly, in both roots and shoots we also observed differential responses in primary metabolism, development as well as defense specific traits depending on whether the JA induction had been below- or aboveground. We conclude that the JA response is not only tissue-specific but also dependent on the organ that was induced. Already very early in the JA signaling pathway the differential response was observed. This indicates that both organs have a different JA signaling cascade, and that the signal eliciting systemic responses contains information about the site of induction, thus providing plants with a mechanism to tailor their responses specifically to the organ that is damaged.
Tytgat, T., Verhoeven, K. J. F., Jansen, J. J., Raaijmakers, C. E., Bakx-Schotman, J. M. T., McIntyre, L. M., Van der Putten, W. H., Biere, A., & Van Dam, N. M. (2013). Plants Know Where It Hurts: Root and Shoot Jasmonic Acid Induction Elicit Differential Responses in Brassica oleracea. PLoS One, 8(6), [e65502]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065502