Root damage and aboveground herbivory change concentration and composition of pyrrolizidine alkaloids of Senecio jacobaea

W.H.G. Hol, M. Macel, J.A. Van Veen, E. van der Meijden

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    Thus far not many studies focussed on how herbivory in one plant part affects plant defence in the other. The effects of root damage and a leaf-feeding herbivore (Mamestra brassicae) on pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) levels of Senecio jacobaea were investigated in a controlled environment. Three cloned S. jacoboea genotypes, which differed in PA concentrations, received four treatments: (1) no damage, (2) root damage (removing half of the root system), (3) shoot herbivory by M. brassicae larvae, (4) root damage and shoot herbivory. Shoot herbivory did not significantly affect shoot biomass, white root damage decreased both root and shoot biomass. Shoot herbivory decreased PA concentrations in the roots. Conversely, root damage increased PA concentrations in the roots. Alkaloid concentrations in the shoot showed a weak response to root damage, shoot herbivory had no effect on PA levels in the shoot. The effect of damage on the allocation of PAs to shoot and roots depended on genotype. One genotype allocated more PAs to the damaged site, another genotype did not change allocation and the third genotype allocated more PAs to the shoot if the roots were damaged. Changes in PA composition were observed in one genotype. Shoot herbivory increased erucifoline concentrations in the shoot and decreased concentrations of senecionine in the roots. In conclusion, we have shown that even in an alleged constitutively defended plant, damage of one compartment affects secondary metabolite level in the other. [KEYWORDS: constitutive defence; aboveground and below-ground interactions; erucifoline; induction; Mamestra brassicae]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)253-260
    JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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