Jonnathan Gonzales
Year: 2014
Faculty Advisor: David Stern

Potato overcompensation growth response to Guatemalan tuber moth infection

Project Summary

Insect herbivory often reduces the overall plant productivity and it has been estimated that herbivory alone affects the agriculture output by 20%. However, in rare cases herbivory results in higher plant biomass or seed production. Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) increases its seed set 2.4-fold after herbivory (Paige & Whitham, 1987). Another great example of overcompensation can be seen in potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) after Guatemalan tuber moth (Tecia solanivora) infestation. Upon a mild infestation (less than 10% of tubers) by Guatemalan tuber moth, the Colombian potato varieties have increased their tuber size, starch content, and the marketable tuber yield (Poveda et al., 2010). However, the molecular reasons of such an overcompensation response is completely unknown. Potato is a crop in high demand and one of the most important crops for human consumption. Hence, investigation of the overcompensation response of potatoes is important and also helpful in increasing the crop yield. We hypothesize that in tuber moth infested potato plants carbohydrate metabolism and photosynthesis rate is higher than the non-infected potato plants. This research tests this hypothesis by measuring transcripts of genes involved in the starch and sucrose biosynthesis and photosynthesis in leaves as well as in tubers of Guatemalan tuber moth infested and uninfested potato plants. The results of this  study identify the specific genes of carbohydrate metabolism and photosynthesis involved in the overcompensation response in addition to helping further research on understanding the genetic basis of overcompensation growth.

My Experience

The BTI summer program has been a great experience for me. I’ve learned basic molecular biology lab techniques, gained a deeper understanding of the techniques being used and have a better grasp of what it is like to conduct research in a molecular lab. I came into this program with little understanding on how to do research.  With the guidance of my mentor PAvan Kumar I learned many techniques including how to perform RNA extractions and real time PCR.  Weekly exposure to various fields in plant biology research through seminars helped me see the fields I’m interested in and those I find less exciting. Additionally, this program has helped to encourage me to go to graduate school.  The PGRP program taught us how to apply to a graduate program and build a career in scientific research.