Terpenes are an important class of defense compounds that accumulate in plants after pathogen infection or arthropod injury. Sequences predicted to encode terpene synthases were selected from an expressed sequence tag (EST) database of Medicago truncatula. Four putative terpene synthase clones (MtTps1-MtTps4), originating from a chewing insect-damaged M. truncatula leaf cDNA library, were isolated. Transcript levels of each gene examined increased in response to artificial wounding, Spodoptera exigua herbivory, and treatment with volatile methyl jasmonate (meJA). Addition of S. exigua regurgitant to wound sites triggered transcript accumulation of MtTps1 and levels increased with higher concentrations of regurgitant. Furthermore, induction of MtTps1 occurred after application of N-linolenoyl-glutamate or N-linoleoyl-glutamate, factors found in lepidopteran regurgitant. Genomic DNA blots indicate that each of the putative proteins is encoded by a single-copy gene or a small gene family. Proteins encoded by MtTps3 and MtTps4 are imported into the soluble fraction of chloroplasts in in vitro assays, whereas proteins encoded by MtTps1 and MtTps2 are not imported into chloroplasts. Combined with sequence comparisons of multiple plant terpene synthases, the import data indicate that MtTps1 and MtTps2 likely encode sesquiterpene synthases and that MtTps3 and MtTps4 encode mono- or di-terpene synthases. In addition to serving as a valuable model legume species for genomic studies, M. truncatula should prove a valuable source of novel terpene-producing enzymes. Induction of wound-responsive genes by insect oral factors suggests that M. truncatula senses biotic damage through the presence of elicitors originating in the herbivore.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.