Transcriptional up-regulation of host-specific terpene metabolism in aphid-induced galls of Pistacia palaestina

Rachel Davidovich-Rikanati, Einat Bar, Gal Hivert, Xing Qi Huang, Carolina Hoppen-Tonial, Vered Khankin, Karin Rand, Amal Abofreih, Joelle K. Muhlemann, José Abramo Marchese, Yoram Shotland, Natalia Dudareva, Moshe Inbar, Efraim Lewinsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Galling insects gain food and shelter by inducing specialized anatomical structures in their plant hosts. Such galls often accumulate plant defensive metabolites protecting the inhabiting insects from predation. We previously found that, despite a marked natural chemopolymorphism in natural populations of Pistacia palaestina, the monoterpene content in Baizongia pistaciae-induced galls is substantially higher than in leaves of their hosts. Here we show a general up-regulation of key structural genes in both the plastidial and cytosolic terpene biosynthetic pathways in galls as compared with non-colonized leaves. Novel prenyltransferases and terpene synthases were functionally expressed in Escherichia coli to reveal their biochemical function. Individual Pistacia trees exhibiting chemopolymorphism in terpene compositions displayed differential up-regulation of selected terpene synthase genes, and the metabolites generated by their gene products in vitro corresponded to the monoterpenes accumulated by each tree. Our results delineate molecular mechanisms responsible for the formation of enhanced monoterpene in galls and the observed intraspecific monoterpene chemodiversity displayed in P. palaestina. We demonstrate that gall-inhabiting aphids transcriptionally reprogram their host terpene pathways by up-regulating tree-specific genes, boosting the accumulation of plant defensive compounds for the protection of colonizing insects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-570
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - 13 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 940/08 to MI) and by research grant no. 2012241 from the BSF (United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation) to MI, ND, and EL. CHT received a 9 month SWE scholarship from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq, Brazil).We thank Rinat Guy for helpful technical assistance

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology. All rights reserved.


  • Baizongia pistaciae
  • extended phenotype
  • gall-forming insects
  • monoterpene biosynthesis
  • Pistacia palaestina
  • plant defense compounds
  • prenyl transferases
  • terpene metabolism
  • terpene synthases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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