Dynamic precision phenotyping reveals mechanism of crop tolerance to root herbivory

Wenchao Qu, Christelle A.M. Robert, Matthias Erb, Bruce E. Hibbard, Maxim Paven, Tassilo Gleede, Barbara Riehl, Lena Kersting, Aylin S. Cankaya, Anna T. Kunert, Youwen Xu, Michael J. Schueller, Colleen Shea, David Alexoff, So Jeong Lee, Joanna S. Fowler, Richard A. Ferrieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The western corn rootworm (WCR; Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte) is a major pest of maize (Zea mays) that is well adapted to most crop management strategies. Breeding for tolerance is a promising alternative to combatWCR but is currently constrained by a lack of physiological understanding and phenotyping tools. We developed dynamic precision phenotyping approaches using 11C with positron emission tomography, root autoradiography, and radiometabolite flux analysis to understand maize tolerance to WCR. Our results reveal that WCR attack induces specific patterns of lateral root growth that are associated with a shift in auxin biosynthesis from indole-3-pyruvic acid to indole-3-acetonitrile. WCR attack also increases transport of newly synthesized amino acids to the roots, including the accumulation of Gln. Finally, the regrowth zones of WCR-attacked roots show an increase in Gln turnover, which strongly correlates with the induction of indole-3-acetonitrile-dependent auxin biosynthesis. In summary, our findings identify local changes in the auxin biosynthesis flux network as a promising marker for induced WCR tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)776-788
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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