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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.22.540048

Cynipid wasps systematically reprogram host metabolism and restructure cell walls in developing galls

K.Markel V. Novak B. Bowen ...+8 P. Shih
Many insects have evolved the ability to manipulate plant growth to generate extraordinary structures called galls in which insect larva can develop while being sheltered within and feeding on the plant. In particular, Cynipid (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) wasps have evolved to form some of the most morphologically complex galls known and generate an astonishing array of gall shapes, colors, and sizes. However, the biochemical basis underlying these remarkable cellular and developmental transformations remains poorly understood. A key determinant in plant cellular development is the deposition of the cell wall to dictate the physical form and physiological function of newly developing cells, tissues, and organs. However, it is unclear to what degree cell walls are restructured to initiate and support the formation of new gall tissue. Here, we characterize the molecular alterations underlying gall development using a combination of metabolomic, histological, and biochemical techniques to elucidate how leaf cells are reprogrammed to form galls. Strikingly, gall development involves an exceptionally coordinated spatial deposition of lignin and xylan to form de novo gall vasculature. Our results highlight how Cynipid wasps can radically change the metabolite profile and restructure the cell wall to enable the formation of galls, providing new insights into the mechanism of gall induction and the extent to which plants can be entirely reprogrammed to form novel structures and organs.