Plant Density and Nutrient Availability Constrain Constitutive and Wound-induced Expression of Trypsin Inhibitors in Brassica napus

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We investigated the effects of plant density on plant size, leaf total soluble protein content, and constitutive and wound-induced levels of proteinaceous trypsin inhibitors in pot-grown Brassica napus seedlings in two greenhouse studies. We manipulated plant density by varying the number of intraspecific neighbors surrounding a target plant in the center of each pot. In general, constitutive and induced levels of trypsin inhibitors were significantly reduced by competition in a density-dependent manner, to the extent that induction was greatly reduced or abolished in target plants surrounded by six neighbors. To investigate whether the effects of plant density on inhibitor production were mediated by nutrient availability, we manipulated the concentration of a complete fertilizer applied to target plants surrounded by six neighbors in two greenhouse studies. In general, constitutive and wound-induced levels of inhibitors in plants surrounded by six neighbors were increased by nutrient addition in a dose-dependent manner, such that wound-induction was completely restored in competing plants under conditions of high nutrient availability. Leaf total soluble protein content, measured only in the second trial of each experiment, was not affected by any of the treatments. The effects of plant density, nutrient addition, and wounding on inhibitor levels in all experiments were independent of their effecs on above-ground plant size at the time of wounding. Overall, our results suggest that decreasing nutrient availability mediates the density-dependent reductions in inhibitor levels in B. napus seedings.



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