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Open AccessArticle

Tomato Plants Treated with Systemin Peptide Show Enhanced Levels of Direct and Indirect Defense Associated with Increased Expression of Defense-Related Genes

1
Dipartimento di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Via Università 100, 80055 Portici, Italy
2
Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Venezian 21, 20133 Milano, Italy
3
CNR-IPSP, Via Università 133, 80055 Portici, Italy
4
CNR-IBB, Via Mezzocannone 16, 80134 Napoli, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Plants 2019, 8(10), 395; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants8100395
Received: 15 July 2019 / Revised: 25 September 2019 / Accepted: 1 October 2019 / Published: 3 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Plant Protection)
Plant defense peptides represent an important class of compounds active against pathogens and insects. These molecules controlling immune barriers can potentially be used as novel tools for plant protection, which mimic natural defense mechanisms against invaders. The constitutive expression in tomato plants of the precursor of the defense peptide systemin was previously demonstrated to increase tolerance against moth larvae and aphids and to hamper the colonization by phytopathogenic fungi, through the expression of a wealth of defense-related genes. In this work we studied the impact of the exogenous supply of systemin to tomato plants on pests to evaluate the use of the peptide as a tool for crop protection in non-transgenic approaches. By combining gene expression studies and bioassays with different pests we demonstrate that the exogenous supply of systemin to tomato plants enhances both direct and indirect defense barriers. Experimental plants, exposed to this peptide by foliar spotting or root uptake through hydroponic culture, impaired larval growth and development of the noctuid moth Spodoptera littoralis, even across generations, reduced the leaf colonization by the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea and were more attractive towards natural herbivore antagonists. The induction of these defense responses was found to be associated with molecular and biochemical changes under control of the systemin signalling cascade. Our results indicate that the direct delivery of systemin, likely characterized by a null effect on non-target organisms, represents an interesting tool for the sustainable protection of tomato plants.
Keywords: biopesticide; endogenous defenses; insect herbivores; phytopathogenic fungi; parasitoids; tomato protection biopesticide; endogenous defenses; insect herbivores; phytopathogenic fungi; parasitoids; tomato protection
MDPI and ACS Style

Coppola, M.; Lelio, I.D.; Romanelli, A.; Gualtieri, L.; Molisso, D.; Ruocco, M.; Avitabile, C.; Natale, R.; Cascone, P.; Guerrieri, E.; Pennacchio, F.; Rao, R. Tomato Plants Treated with Systemin Peptide Show Enhanced Levels of Direct and Indirect Defense Associated with Increased Expression of Defense-Related Genes. Plants 2019, 8, 395.

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