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Condensed tannins (CTs) are polyphenolics and part of the total phenolic (TP) pool that shape resistance in aspen (Populus tremula). CTs are negatively associated with pathogens, but their resistance properties against herbivores are less understood. CTs shape resistance to pathogens and chewing herbivores and could also shape resistance to aphids. Being chemical pools that are highly variable it can further be questioned whether CT-shaped resistance is better described by constitutive levels, by the induced response potential, or by both. Here, aspen genotypes were propagated and selected to represent a range of inherent abilities to produce and store foliar CTs; the plantlets were then exposed to Chaitophorus aphid infestation and to mechanical (leaf rupture) damage, and the relative abundance of constitutive and induced CTs was related to aphid fitness parameters. As expected, aphid fecundity was negatively related to CT-concentrations of the aphid infested plants although more consistently related to TPs. While TPs increased in response to damage, CT induction was generally low and it even dropped below constitutive levels in more CT-rich genotypes, suggesting that constitutive CTs are more relevant measurements of resistance compared to induced CT-levels. Relating CT and TP dynamics with phenolic low molecular compounds further suggested that catechin (the building block of CTs) increased in response to aphid damage in amounts that correlated negatively with CT-induction and positively with constitutive CT-levels and aphid fecundity. Our study portrays dynamic phenolic responses to two kinds of damage detailed for major phenylpropanoid classes and suggests that the ability of a genotype to produce and store CTs may be a measurement of resistance, caused by other, more reactive, phenolic compounds such as catechin. Rupture damage however appeared to induce catechin levels oppositely supporting that CTs may respond differently to different kinds of damage.
Gaur, R. K., I. N. de Abreu, and B. R. Albrectsen. 2022. Compensatory phenolic induction dynamics in aspen after aphid infestation. Scientific Reports 12:9582.