University of Oulu

Thitz, P., Mehtätalo, L., Välimäki, P. et al. Phytochemical Shift from Condensed Tannins to Flavonoids in Transgenic Betula pendula Decreases Consumption and Growth but Improves Growth Efficiency of Epirrita autumnata Larvae. J Chem Ecol 46, 217–231 (2020).

Phytochemical shift from condensed tannins to flavonoids in transgenic Betula pendula decreases consumption and growth but improves growth efficiency of Epirrita autumnata larvae

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Author: Thitz, Paula1; Mehtätalo, Lauri2; Välimäki, Panu3;
Organizations: 1Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 111, FI-80101, Joensuu, Finland
2School of Computing, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 111, FI-80101, Joensuu, Finland
3Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 8000, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland
4Present address: Biocarelia Research Laboratory, FI-82580, Juurikka, Finland
5Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 45056, USA
6Kevo Subarctic Research Institute, Biodiversity Unit, University of Turku, FI-20014, Turku, Finland
7Present address: Department of Ecosystems in the Barents Region, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, NO-9925, Svanvik, Norway
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-04-17


Despite active research, antiherbivore activity of specific plant phenolics remains largely unresolved. We constructed silver birch (Betula pendula) lines with modified phenolic metabolism to study the effects of foliar flavonoids and condensed tannins on consumption and growth of larvae of a generalist herbivore, the autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata). We conducted a feeding experiment using birch lines in which expression of dihydroflavonol reductase (DFR), anthocyanidin synthase (ANS) or anthocyanidin reductase (ANR) had been decreased by RNA interference. Modification-specific effects on plant phenolics, nutrients and phenotype, and on larval consumption and growth were analyzed using uni- and multivariate methods. Inhibiting DFR expression increased the concentration of flavonoids at the expense of condensed tannins, and silencing DFR and ANR decreased leaf and plant size. E. autumnata larvae consumed on average 82% less of DFRi plants than of unmodified controls, suggesting that flavonoids or glandular trichomes deter larval feeding. However, larval growth efficiency was highest on low-tannin DFRi plants, indicating that condensed tannins (or their monomers) are physiologically more harmful than non-tannin flavonoids for E. autumnata larvae. Our results show that genetic manipulation of the flavonoid pathway in plants can effectively be used to produce altered phenolic profiles required for elucidating the roles of low-molecular weight phenolics and condensed tannins in plant–herbivore relationships, and suggest that phenolic secondary metabolites participate in regulation of plant growth.

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Series: Journal of chemical ecology
ISSN: 0098-0331
ISSN-E: 1573-1561
ISSN-L: 0098-0331
Volume: 46
Issue: 2
Pages: 217 - 231
DOI: 10.1007/s10886-019-01134-9
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1184 Genetics, developmental biology, physiology
1183 Plant biology, microbiology, virology
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Eastern Finland (UEF) including Kuopio University Hospital. This work was funded by Academy of Finland (project 267360), The Finnish Cultural Foundation (South Savo and North Karelia Regional Funds), The Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation and Niemi Foundation.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2020. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit