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The Molecular Genetic Basis of Herbivory between Butterflies and their Host-Plants

By Sumitha Nallu, Jason Hill, Kristine Don, Carlos Sahagun, Wei Zhang, Camille Meslin, Emilie Snell-Rood, Nathan L. Clark, Nathan I. Morehouse, Joy Bergelson, Christopher W Wheat, Marcus R. Kronforst

Posted 23 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/154799 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0629-9)

Interactions between herbivorous insects and their host-plants are a central component of terrestrial food webs and a critical topic in agriculture, where a substantial fraction of potential crop yield is lost annually to pests. Important insights into plant-insect interactions have come from research on specific plant defenses and insect detoxification mechanisms. Yet, much remains unknown about the molecular mechanisms that mediate plant-insect interactions. Here we use multiple genome-wide approaches to map the molecular basis of herbivory from both plant and insect perspectives, focusing on butterflies and their larval host-plants. Parallel genome-wide association studies in the Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae, and its host-plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, pinpointed a small number of butterfly and plant genes that influenced herbivory. These genes, along with much of the genome, were regulated in a dynamic way over the time course of the feeding interaction. Comparative analyses, including diverse butterfly/plant systems, showed a variety of genome-wide responses to herbivory, yet a core set of highly conserved genes in butterflies as well as their host-plants. These results greatly expand our understanding of the genomic causes and evolutionary consequences of ecological interactions across two of Nature's most diverse taxa, butterflies and flowering plants.

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