BAK1 is a co-receptor of brassinosteroid (BR) receptor BRI1, and plays a well-characterized role in BR signalling. BAK1 also physically interacts with the flagellin receptor FLS2 and regulates pathogen resistance. The role of BAK1 in mediating Nicotiana attenuata's resistance responses to its specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta, was examined here. A virus-induced gene-silencing system was used to generate empty vector (EV) and NaBAK1-silenced plants. The wounding- and herbivory-induced responses were examined on EV and NaBAK1-silenced plants by wounding plants or simulating herbivory by treating wounds with larval oral secretions (OS). After wounding or OS elicitation, NaBAK1-silenced plants showed attenuated jasmonic acid (JA) and JA-isoleucine bursts, phytohormone responses important in mediating plant defences against herbivores. However, these decreased JA and JA-Ile levels did not result from compromised MAPK activity or elevated SA levels. After simulated herbivory, NaBAK1-silenced plants had EV levels of defensive secondary metabolites, namely, trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs), and similar levels of resistance to Manduca sexta larvae. Additional experiments demonstrated that decreased JA levels in NaBAK1-VIGS plants, rather than the enzymatic activity of JAR proteins or Ile levels, were responsible for the reduced JA-Ile levels observed in these plants. Methyl jasmonate application elicited higher levels of TPI activity in NaBAK1-silenced plants than in EV plants, suggesting that silencing NaBAK1 enhances the accumulation of TPIs induced by a given level of JA. Thus NaBAK1 is involved in modulating herbivory-induced JA accumulation and how JA levels are transduced into TPI levels in N. attenuata.

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