Caterpillar labial saliva alters tomato plant gene expression

J Chem Ecol. 2012 Nov;38(11):1387-401. doi: 10.1007/s10886-012-0198-3. Epub 2012 Oct 14.


We examined the effects of Helicoverpa zea caterpillar labial saliva on tomato plant gene expression. Caterpillars with labial salivary glands (mock-ablated) and without (ablated) were fed on tomato plants for 24 hr; then, the leaf mRNA was analyzed with tomato microarrays. Analysis of the transcript profiles revealed 384 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) that were significantly altered due to herbivory compared to the non-wounded plants. The majority of the ESTs were quantitatively altered more so by mock-ablated caterpillars with labial salivary glands than ablated caterpillars. Particularly notable, ESTs encoding acid phosphatase, arginase, acidic endochitinase, dehydrin, polyphenol oxidase, protease inhibitors, and threonine deaminase were more highly stimulated by mock-ablated caterpillars than ablated caterpillars. In addition, tomato leaves were mechanically wounded with scissors and painted with labial salivary gland extract, autoclaved salivary gland extract, or water, and compared to non-wounded tomato plants. After 4 hr, these leaves were collected and a tomato microarray analysis of the mRNA revealed correlation of the gene expression of these leaves altered by mechanical wounding and painted with salivary gland extract to the gene expression of leaves fed on by mock-ablated caterpillars. We show that caterpillar labial saliva is an important component of herbivory that can alter plant gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Lepidoptera / anatomy & histology
  • Lepidoptera / physiology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Plant Leaves / drug effects
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / parasitology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Salivary Glands / metabolism
  • Solanum lycopersicum / drug effects
  • Solanum lycopersicum / metabolism*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / parasitology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Extracts / pharmacology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tissue Extracts