Transcriptional up-regulation of host-specific terpene metabolism in aphid-induced galls of Pistacia palaestina

Rachel Davidovich-Rikanati, Einat Bar, Gal Hivert, Xing Qi Huang, Carolina Hoppen-Tonial, Vered Khankin, Karin Rand, Amal Abofreih, Joelle K. Muhlemann, José Abramo Marchese, Yoram Shotland, Natalia Dudareva, Moshe Inbar, Efraim Lewinsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Galling insects gain food and shelter by inducing specialized anatomical structures in their plant hosts. Such galls often accumulate plant defensive metabolites protecting the inhabiting insects from predation. We previously found that, despite a marked natural chemopolymorphism in natural populations of Pistacia palaestina, the monoterpene content in Baizongia pistaciae-induced galls is substantially higher than in leaves of their hosts. Here we show a general up-regulation of key structural genes in both the plastidial and cytosolic terpene biosynthetic pathways in galls as compared with non-colonized leaves. Novel prenyltransferases and terpene synthases were functionally expressed in Escherichia coli to reveal their biochemical function. Individual Pistacia trees exhibiting chemopolymorphism in terpene compositions displayed differential up-regulation of selected terpene synthase genes, and the metabolites generated by their gene products in vitro corresponded to the monoterpenes accumulated by each tree. Our results delineate molecular mechanisms responsible for the formation of enhanced monoterpene in galls and the observed intraspecific monoterpene chemodiversity displayed in P. palaestina. We demonstrate that gall-inhabiting aphids transcriptionally reprogram their host terpene pathways by up-regulating tree-specific genes, boosting the accumulation of plant defensive compounds for the protection of colonizing insects.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)555-570
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • Baizongia pistaciae
  • Pistacia palaestina
  • extended phenotype
  • gall-forming insects
  • monoterpene biosynthesis
  • plant defense compounds
  • prenyl transferases
  • terpene metabolism
  • terpene synthases

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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