Gene expression plasticity across hosts of an invasive scale insect species
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For plant-eating insects, we still have only a nascent understanding of the genetic basis of host-use promiscuity. Here, to improve that situation, we investigated host-induced gene expression plasticity in the invasive lobate lac scale insect, Paratachardina pseudolobata (Hemiptera: Keriidae). We were particularly interested in the differential expression of detoxification and effector genes, which are thought to be critical for overcoming a plant’s chemical defenses. We collected RNA samples from P. pseudolobata on three different host plant species, assembled transcriptomes de novo, and identified transcripts with significant host-induced gene expression changes. Gene expression plasticity was pervasive, but the expression of most detoxification and effector genes was insensitive to the host environment. Nevertheless, some types of detoxification genes were more differentially expressed than expected by chance. Moreover, we found evidence of a trade-off between expression of genes involved in primary and secondary metabolism; hosts that induced lower expression of genes for detoxification induced higher expression of genes for growth. Our findings are largely consonant with those of several recently published studies of other plant-eating insect species. Thus, across plant-eating insect species, there may be a common set of gene expression changes that enable host-use promiscuity.