Plants have evolved sophisticated communication and defense systems with which they interact with insects. Jasmonates are synthesized from the oxylipin pathway and act as pivotal cellular orchestrators of many of the metabolic and physiological processes that mediate these interactions. Many of these jasmonate-dependent responses are tissue-specific and translate from modulations of the canonical jasmonate signaling pathway. Here we provide a short overview of within-plant heterogeneities in jasmonate signaling and dependent responses in the context of plant-insect interactions as illuminated by examples from recent work with the ecological model, Nicotiana attenuata
. We then discuss means of manipulating jasmonate signaling by creating tissue-specific jasmonate sinks, and the micrografting of different transgenic plants. The metabolic phenotyping of these manipulations provides an integrative understanding of the functional significance of deviations from the canonical model of this hormonal pathway. Additionally, natural variation in jasmonate biosynthesis and signaling both among and within species can explain polymorphisms in resistance to insects in nature. In this respect, insect-guided explorations of population-level variations in jasmonate metabolism have revealed more complexity than previously realized and we discuss how different “omic” techniques can be used to exploit the natural variation that occurs in this important signaling pathway.
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