Using knockout mutants to reveal the growth costs of defensive traits.
Züst T., Joseph B., Shimizu KK., Kliebenstein DJ., Turnbull LA.
We used a selection of Arabidopsis thaliana mutants with knockouts in defence genes to demonstrate growth costs of trichome development and glucosinolate production. Four of the seven defence mutants had significantly higher size-standardized growth rates (SGRs) than the wild-type in early life, although this benefit declined as plants grew larger. SGR is known to be a good predictor of success under high-density conditions, and we confirmed that mutants with higher growth rates had a large advantage when grown in competition. Despite the lack of differences in flowering-time genes, the mutants differed in flowering time, a trait that strongly correlated with early growth rate. Aphid herbivory decreased plant growth rate and increased flowering time, and aphid population growth rate was closely coupled to the growth rate of the host plant. Small differences in early SGR thus had cascading effects on both flowering time and herbivore populations.