Entomology, Department of




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Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21, 7966; doi:10.3390/ijms21217966 www.mdpi.com/journal/ijms


2020 by the authors.


Yellow sugarcane aphid (YSA) (Sipha flava, Forbes) is a damaging pest on many grasses. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), a perennial C4 grass, has been selected as a bioenergy feedstock because of its perceived resilience to abiotic and biotic stresses. Aphid infestation on switchgrass has the potential to reduce the yields and biomass quantity. Here, the global defense response of switchgrass cultivars Summer and Kanlow to YSA feeding was analyzed by RNA-seq and metabolite analysis at 5, 10, and 15 days after infestation. Genes upregulated by infestation were more common in both cultivars compared to downregulated genes. In total, a higher number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were found in the YSA susceptible cultivar (Summer), and fewer DEGs were observed in the YSA resistant cultivar (Kanlow). Interestingly, no downregulated genes were found in common between each time point or between the two switchgrass cultivars. Gene co-expression analysis revealed upregulated genes in Kanlow were associated with functions such as flavonoid, oxidation-response to chemical, or wax composition. Downregulated genes for the cultivar Summer were found in co-expression modules with gene functions related to plant defense mechanisms or cell wall composition. Global analysis of defense networks of the two cultivars uncovered differential mechanisms associated with resistance or susceptibility of switchgrass in response to YSA infestation. Several gene co-expression modules and transcription factors correlated with these differential defense responses. Overall, the YSA-resistant Kanlow plants have an enhanced defense even under aphid uninfested conditions.

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