Plant Science

A Productively Repellant Aura

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Science  21 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6114, pp. 1512
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6114.1512-a
CREDIT: © JOHN M. SCOTT/ISTOCKPHOTO

The domesticated tomato has wild relatives which, although they may lack large juicy fruits, retain useful defenses against insect infestation. The reduced density of trichomes and absence of specific biosynthetic pathways leave the domesticated tomato more susceptible to insect infestation, which can cause devastating crop losses. Bleeker et al. have now identified key enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway for 7-epizingiberene, a terpene derivative exuded from leaf trichomes of the wild, but not domesticated, tomato that repels whiteflies and spider mites. Crossbreeding experiments showed that plants that expressed some 7-epzingiberene, even if it was less than the expression seen in wild tomato plants, were resistant to whitefly pests. Expression of 7-epizingiberene synthase (ShZIS) and cis-prenyltransferase (zFPS), both from wild tomato, in trichomes of domesticated tomato drove production of 7-epizingiberene. The consequent reduction of whitefly and spider mite infestations suggests routes to protect domesticated tomato crops.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109, 20124 (2012).

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