Release of Hormones from Conjugates: Chloroplast Expression of β-Glucosidase Results in Elevated Phytohormone Levels Associated with Significant Increase in Biomass and Protection from Aphids or Whiteflies Conferred by Sucrose Esters
Transplastomic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plants expressing β-glucosidase (Bgl-1) show modified development. They flower 1 month earlier with an increase in biomass (1.9-fold), height (1.5-fold), and leaf area (1.6-fold) than untransformed plants. Trichome density on the upper and lower leaf surfaces of BGL-1 plants increase by 10- and 7-fold, respectively, harboring 5-fold more glandular trichomes (as determined by rhodamine B staining), suggesting that BGL-1 lines produce more sugar esters than control plants. Gibberellin (GA) levels were investigated because it is a known regulator of flowering time, plant height, and trichome development. Both GA1 and GA4 levels are 2-fold higher in BGL-1 leaves than in untransformed plants but do not increase in other organs. In addition, elevated levels of other plant hormones, including zeatin and indole-3-acetic acid, are observed in BGL-1 lines. Protoplasts from BGL-1 lines divide and form calli without exogenous hormones. Cell division in protoplasts is enhanced 7-fold in the presence of exogenously applied zeatin-O-glucoside conjugate, indicating the release of active hormones from their conjugates. Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and aphid (Myzus persicae) populations in control plants are 18 and 15 times higher than in transplastomic lines, respectively. Lethal dose to kill 50% of the test population values of 26.3 and 39.2 μg per whitefly and 23.1 and 35.2 μg per aphid for BGL-1 and untransformed control exudates, respectively, confirm the enhanced toxicity of transplastomic exudates. These data indicate that increase in sugar ester levels in BGL-1 lines might function as an effective biopesticide. This study provides a novel strategy for designing plants for enhanced biomass production and insect control by releasing plant hormones or sugar esters from their conjugates stored within their chloroplasts.