Effect of nitrogen avilability on expression of constitutive and inducible chemical defenses in tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum

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Young tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) grown in sand in a greenhouse and subjected to different fertilization regimes were used to test the effects of nitrogen availability on constitutive levels of phenolics and on constitutive and inducible activities of polyphenol oxidase and proteinase inhibitors. Theories that emphasize physiological constraints on the expression of phytochemicals predict an increase in levels of carbon-based allelochemicals under moderate nitrogen stress but predict, under the same conditions, an attenuation of chemical responses involving nitrogen-containing compounds such as proteinase inhibitors and polyphenol oxidase. We found that nitrogen availability had a strong effect on constitutive levels of phenolics; weaker effects on constitutive polyphenol oxidase activity, constitutive proteinase inhibitor activity, and inducible polyphenol oxidase activity; and no effect on inducible proteinase inhibitor activity. These results point to a need for the integration of theories that emphasize physiological influences on secondary metabolism with those that emphasize ecological influences on secondary metabolism and suggest that current theories of plant defense do not adequately account for enzymatic and proteinaceous defenses against arthropods.

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Journal of Chemical Ecology

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