Daniel Maldonado-Lopez
Year: 2015
Faculty Advisor: Georg Jander

Aboveground Resistance in Solanum tuberosum in Response to Belowground Herbivory

Project Summary

Resistance responses to herbivory are crucial for plants to survive and adapt to the threats that surround them. The responses can be categorized into alterations in the primary and secondary metabolism of the plant. Generally, when studying resistance responses, only one insect species and a specific area of a plant are taken into consideration. However, in nature, more than one insect could attack different parts of a plant simultaneously. In the current project, potato (Solanum tuberosum) and two different types of insects were used in different organs of the plant. Tecia solanivora was used to infect the tubers and Spodoptera furgiperda was later used to feed from the leaves. The approach we took with this experiment was to try to decipher the defense interaction between the above and belowground parts of the plant. Specifically, we wanted to know how belowground herbivory by T. solanivora affects S. furgiperda feeding on the leaves, and what defense mechanisms are triggered by belowground herbivory. The experimental techniques that were used include quantitative PCR (qPCR), liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC-MS), and spectrophotometry. Previously, we found that higher lipoxygenase 3 transcripts were accumulated in the aboveground leaves. We also observed thatS. frugiperda  larval mass in the aboveground section of the plants in which belowground herbivory was present was lower than the mass of the controls, indicating that a resistance response was elicited by belowground herbivory. This contributes to our understanding on how different plant organs respond to insect herbivory and how they interact with one another.

My Experience

Working in the Jander lab gave me an idea of what I would like to pursue as a career in the future, and it was a great honor to be part of the PGRP internship program. I learned many basic molecular biology and biochemistry techniques such as qPCR, soluble sugars and starch quantification using spectrophotometry, and LC-MS. Before this internship I didn’t have much knowledge about what working in a lab was like. Something important that I learned was to plan ahead when doing an experiment, because it is always good to have a backup plan, and knowing that if you make a mistake, you can fix it without having to put the whole experiment in danger. I really enjoyed working alongside my mentors Pavan Kumar and Erandi Vargas Ortiz who helped me achieve a better understanding of everything I did at the Boyce Thompson Institute.