Tomato transcriptomic response to Tuta absoluta infestation.
Background: The South America pinworm, Tuta absoluta, is a destructive pest of tomato that causes important losses worldwide. Breeding of resistant/tolerant tomato cultivars could be an effective strategy for T. absoluta management but, despite the economic importance of tomato, very limited information is available about its response to this treat. To elucidate the defense mechanisms to herbivore feeding a comparative analysis was performed between a tolerant and susceptible cultivated tomato at both morphological and transcriptome level to highlight constitutive leaf barriers, molecular and biochemical mechanisms to counter the effect of T. absoluta attack. Results: The tolerant genotype showed an enhanced constitutive barrier possibly as result of the higher density of trichomes and increased inducible reactions upon mild infestation thanks to the activation/repression of key transcription factors regulating genes involved in cuticle formation and cell wall strength as well as of antinutritive enzymes, and genes involved in the production of chemical toxins and bioactive secondary metabolites. Conclusions: Overall, our findings suggest that tomato resilience to the South America pinworm is achieved by a combined strategy between constitutive and induced defense system. A well-orchestrated modulation of plant transcription regulation could ensure a trade-off between defense needs and fitness costs. Our finding can be further exploited for developing T. absoluta tolerant cultivars, acting as important component of integrated pest management strategy for more sustainable production.