Most plants form mutualistic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi that are ubiquitous in soils. Through this symbiosis, plants can withstand abiotic and biotic stresses. The underlying molecular mechanisms involved in mediating mycorrhiza-induced resistance against insects needs further research, and this is particularly true for potato (Solanum tuberosum L. (Solanales: Solanaceae)), which is the fourth most important crop worldwide. In this study, the tripartite interaction between potato, the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis (Glomerales: Glomeraceae), and cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) was examined to determine whether potato exhibits mycorrhiza-induced resistance against this insect. Plant growth, insect fitness, AM fungal colonization of roots, and transcript levels of defense-related genes were measured in shoots and roots after 5 and 8 d of herbivory on mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal plants. AM fungal colonization of roots did not have an effect on potato growth, but root colonization levels increased by herbivory. Larval weight gain was reduced after 8 d of feeding on mycorrhizal plants compared with nonmycorrhizal plants. Systemic upregulation of Allene Oxide Synthase 1 (AOS1), 12-Oxo-Phytodienoate Reductase 3 (OPR3) (jasmonic acid pathway), Protease Inhibitor Type I (PI-I) (anti-herbivore defense), and Phenylalanine Ammonia Lyase (PAL) transcripts (phenylpropanoid pathway) was found during the tripartite interaction. Together, these findings suggest that potato may exhibit mycorrhiza-induced resistance to cabbage looper by priming anti-herbivore defenses aboveground. This study illustrates how mycorrhizal potato responds to herbivory by a generalist-chewing insect and serves as the basis for future studies involving tripartite interactions with other pests.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2