Seedling growth and fall armyworm feeding preference influenced by dhurrin production in sorghum.
Cyanogenic glucosides (CGs) play a key role in host-plant defense to insect feeding; however, the metabolic tradeoffs between synthesis of CGs and plant growth are not well understood. In this study, genetic mutants coupled with nondestructive phenotyping techniques were used to study the impact of the CG dhurrin on fall armyworm [Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith)] (FAW) feeding and plant growth in sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench]. A genetic mutation in CYP79A1 gene that disrupts dhurrin biosynthesis was used to develop sets of near-isogenic lines (NILs) with contrasting dhurrin contents in the Tx623 bmr6 genetic background. The NILs were evaluated for differences in plant growth and FAW feeding damage in replicated greenhouse and field trials. Greenhouse studies showed that dhurrin-free Tx623 bmr6 cyp79a1 plants grew more quickly than wild-type plants but were more susceptible to insect feeding based on changes in green plant area (GPA), total leaf area, and total dry weight over time. The NILs exhibited similar patterns of growth in field trials with significant differences in leaf area and dry weight of dhurrin-free plants between the infested and non-infested treatments. Taken together, these studies reveal a significant metabolic tradeoff between CG biosynthesis and plant growth in sorghum seedlings. Disruption of dhurrin biosynthesis produces plants with higher growth rates than wild-type plants but these plants have greater susceptibility to FAW feeding.