That some plants benefit from being eaten is counterintuitive, yet there is now considerable evidence demonstrating enhanced fitness following herbivory (i.e., plants can overcompensate). Although there is evidence that genetic variation for compensation exists, little is known about the genetic mechanisms leading to enhanced growth and reproduction following herbivory. We took advantage of the compensatory variation in recombinant inbred lines of Arabidopsis thaliana, combined with microarray and QTL analyses to assess the molecular basis of overcompensation. We found three QTL explaining 11.4, 10.1, and 26.7% of the variation in fitness compensation, respectively, and 109 differentially expressed genes between clipped and unclipped plants of the overcompensating ecotype Columbia. From the QTL/microarray screen we uncovered one gene that plays a significant role in overcompensation: glucose-6-phosphate-1-dehydrogenase (G6PDH1). Knockout studies of Transfer-DNA (T-DNA) insertion lines and complementation studies of G6PDH1 verify its role in compensation. G6PDH1 is a key enzyme in the oxidative pentose-phosphate pathway that plays a central role in plant metabolism. We propose that plants capable of overcompensating reprogram their transcriptional activity by upregulating defensive genes and genes involved in energy metabolism and by increasing DNA content (via endoreduplication) with the increase in DNA content feeding back on pathways involved in defense and metabolism through increased gene expression.
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