Anthropogenic increase in carbon dioxide compromises plant defense against invasive insects

Jorge A. Zavala, Clare L. Casteel, Evan H. DeLucia, May R. Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), a consequence of anthropogenic global change, can profoundly affect the interactions between crop plants and insect pests and may promote yet another form of global change: the rapid establishment of invasive species. Elevated CO2 increased the susceptibility of soybean plants grown under field conditions to the invasive Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) and to a variant of western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) resistant to crop rotation by down-regulating gene expression related to defense signaling [lipoxygenase 7 (lox7), lipoxygenase 8 (lox8), and 1-aminocyclopropane-1- carboxylate synthase (acc-s)]. The down-regulation of these genes, in turn, reduced the production of cysteine proteinase inhibitors (CystPIs), which are specific deterrents to coleopteran herbivores. Beetle herbivory increased CystPI activity to a greater degree in plants grown under ambient than under elevated CO2. Gut cysteine proteinase activity was higher in beetles consuming foliage of soybeans grown under elevated CO2 than in beetles consuming soybeans grown in ambient CO2, consistent with enhanced growth and development of these beetles on plants grown in elevated CO 2. These findings suggest that predicted increases in soybean productivity under projected elevated CO2 levels may be reduced by increased susceptibility to invasive crop pests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5129-5133
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Diabrotica virgifera
  • Global change
  • Glycine max
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Popillia japonica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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