• Evidence is emerging to support the notion that in response to herbivory, plants undergo changes in their primary metabolism and are able to fine-tune the allocation of new and existing resources and temporarily direct them to storage organs. • We hypothesized that simulated herbivory increases the export of resources out of the affected tissues and increases allocation to roots. We used short-lived radioisotopes to study in vivo the dynamics of newly incorporated (11)CO(2) and (13)NH(3). Methyl jasmonate (MeJA), a known defense elicitor, was applied to the foliage of tomato plants and 4 h later we monitored leaf uptake, export and whole-plant allocation of [(11)C]photosynthate and [(13)N]amino acids. • There was a marginally significant decrease in the fixation of (11)CO(2), and an increase in the export of newly acquired carbon and nitrogen out of MeJA-treated leaves. The proportion of nitrogen allocated to roots increased, whereas the proportion of carbon did not change. • These results are in agreement with our hypotheses, showing a change in the allocation of resources after treatment with MeJA; this may reduce the chance of resources being lost to herbivores and act as a buffer to biotic stress by increasing the potential for plant regrowth and survival after the attack.
© The Authors (2010). Journal compilation © New Phytologist Trust (2010).