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Plants actively interact with antagonists and beneficial organisms occurring in the above- and belowground domains of terrestrial ecosystems. In the past decade, studies have focused on the role of plant–soil feedbacks (PSF) in a broad range of ecological processes. However, PSF and its legacy effects on plant defense traits, such as induction of defense-related genes and production of defensive secondary metabolites, have not received much attention. Here, we study soil legacy effects created by twelve common grassland plant species on the induction of four defense-related genes, involved in jasmonic acid signaling, related to chewing herbivore defense (LOX2, PPO7), and in salicylic acid signaling, related to pathogen defense (PR1 and PR2) in Plantago lanceolata in response to aboveground herbivory by Mamestra brassicae. We also assessed soil legacy and herbivory effects on the production of terpenoid defense compounds (the iridoid glycosides aucubin and catalpol) in P. lanceolata. Our results show that both soil legacy and herbivory influence phenotypes of P. lanceolata in terms of induction of Pl PPO7 and Pl LOX2, whereas the expression of Pl PR1 and Pl PR2-1 is not affected by soil legacies, nor by herbivory. We also find species-specific soil legacy effects on the production of aucubin. Moreover, P. lanceolata accumulates more catalpol when they are grown in soils conditioned by grass species. Our study highlights that PSF can influence aboveground plant–insect interactions through the impacts on plant defense traits and suggests that aboveground plant defense responses can be determined, at least partly, by plant-specific legacy effects induced by belowground organisms.
Data from: Species-specific plant–soil feedbacks alter herbivore-induced gene expression and defense chemistry in Plantago lanceolata