The differential effects of herbivory by first and fourth instars of Trichoplusia ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) on photosynthesis in Arabidopsis thaliana

J Exp Bot. 2006;57(3):527-36. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erj032. Epub 2005 Dec 23.


The effect of different feeding behaviours of 1st and 4th instar Trichoplusia ni on photosynthesis of Arabidopsis thaliana var. Columbia was characterized using spatially resolved measurements of fluorescence and leaf temperature, as well as leaf gas exchange,. First instars made small holes with a large perimeter-to-area ratio and avoided veins, while 4th instars made large holes with a low perimeter-to-area ratio and consumed veins. Herbivory by 1st instars reduced photosynthesis more strongly in the remaining leaf tissue than that by 4th instars. Photosystem II operating efficiency (PhiPSII) was correlated with the rate of CO2 exchange, and reductions in PhiPSII in areas around the missing tissues contributed to a 15.6% reduction in CO2 assimilation on the first day following removal of 1st instars. The corresponding increases in non-photochemical quenching and greater rates of non-stomatal water loss from these regions, as well as the partial reversal of low PhiPSII by increasing the ambient CO2 concentration, suggests that localized water stress and reduced stomatal conductance contributed to the inhibition of photosynthesis. Damage by 1st but not 4th instars reduced the maximum quantum efficiency of photosystem II photochemistry (Fv/Fm) by 4-8%. While herbivory by both 1st and 4th instars increased dark respiration rates, the rates were too low to have contributed to the observed reductions in CO2 exchange. The small holes produced by 1st instars may have isolated patches of tissue from the vascular system thereby contributing to localized water stress. Since neither 1st nor 4th instar herbivory had a detectable effect on the expression of the Rubisco small subunit gene, the observed differences cannot be attributed to changes in expression of this gene. The mode of feeding by different instars of T. ni determined the photosynthetic response to herbivory, which appeared to be mediated by the level of water stress associated with herbivore damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / anatomy & histology
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Ecosystem
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / analysis
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / physiology
  • Lepidoptera / growth & development*
  • Lepidoptera / physiology
  • Photosynthesis / genetics
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / physiology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / analysis
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase / genetics
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase / metabolism


  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase