Eur. J. Entomol. 110 (2): 253-262, 2013 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2013.038

Effects on lepidopteran herbivores of feeding on leaves of transgenic birch (Betula pendula) expressing the sugar beet chitinase IV gene

Liisa VIHERVUORI, Päivi LYYTIKÄINEN-SAARENMAA, Jinrong LU, Hanna-Leena PASONEN
Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland; e-mails: liisa.vihervuori@helsinki.fi; paivi.lyytikainen-saarenmaa@helsinki.fi; jinrong.lu@helsinki.fi; hanna-leena.pasonen@mikkeli.fi

Transgenic lines of silver birch (Betula pendula) carrying the sugar beet chitinase IV gene were used to study the effects of the heterologous expression of a transgenic chitinase on the performance of lepidopteran herbivores. The effect of wounding the leaves of birch on the performance of lepidopteran larvae and the growth of trees was also studied. Larvae of Orgyia antiqua L., Lymantriidae, and Phalera bucephala L., Notodontidae, were separately fed on the leaves of transgenic and wild-type birch, and their performance measured using nutritional indices. The relative growth rate (RGR) of O. antiqua larvae fed transgenic leaves was significantly lower than that of larvae fed wild-type leaves. Furthermore, there is little evidence that transgenic chitinase affects survival but it was lowest for the group of larvae fed leaves with the highest expression of chitinase IV. Wounding did not have a significant effect on the performance of the larvae or on the growth of the branches of the trees. The growth of branches of particular transgenic lines, however, was significantly associated with tree line. The performance of P. bucephala larvae fed leaves of transgenic and wild-type birches did not differ. The leaves used in both experiments from transgenic trees were shorter than those from wild-type trees. Using transgenic birch expressing sugar beet chitinase IV to improve the resistance of birch to fungal diseases can have negative effects on O. antiqua larvae feeding on the leaves of these birches. P. bucephala, however, was not similarly affected, which indicates that these two ecologically similar lepidopteran species may differ in their response to transgenic chitinase.

Keywords: Lepidoptera, Lymantriidae, Orgyia antiqua, Notodontidae, Phalera bucephala, Betula pendula, silver birch, chitinase, herbivory simulation by leaf wounding, insect herbivore, nutritional indices, transgenic tree

Received: March 5, 2012; Accepted: October 22, 2012; Published: April 11, 2013

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