UTSA COS Summer Research Experience for 2013
The Physiological and Biochemical Characterization of the Pathway Leading to the Production of Jasmonic Acid
Plants under insect herbivore attack have evolved various mechanisms to counteract this threat. Among the measures plants undertake to survive with the least damage are the recognition of insect-derived elicitors, production of proteins that block digestion or disrupt intestinal tissue, and the production of defense-related secondary metabolites which directly or indirectly affect the herbivore performance. Lipid-derived compounds (oxylipins), which are activated by elicitors from the insect saliva, represent important signals in this process. However, little is known about the regulation of the pathway leading to the production of jasmonic acid (JA), the most important signal in plant defense against herbivorous insects. The discovery of green leafy volatiles, the green smell of plants, as a volatile signal that facilitates communication between plants shed new light on how plants respond to insect herbivore attack and prepare their defenses. The significance of these pathways is not limited to defense-related functions, but also plays an important role in developmental and other biotic and abiotic processes. The physiological and biochemical characterization of these pathways are major aspects of Dr. Engelberth's research. Besides the metabolic analysis of possible signaling compounds, the molecular regulation of these processes are the major subjects in his research program.