Unique metabolites protect earthworms against plant polyphenols

Liebeke, Manuel; Strittmatter, Nicole; Fearn, Sarah; Morgan, A. John; Kille, Peter; Fuchser, Jens; Wallis, David; Palchykov, Vitalii; Robertson, Jeremy; Lahive, Elma; Spurgeon, David J. ORCID:; McPhail, David; Takáts, Zoltán; Bundy, Jacob G.. 2015 Unique metabolites protect earthworms against plant polyphenols. Nature Communications, 6, 7869. 7, pp.

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All higher plants produce polyphenols, for defence against above-ground herbivory. These polyphenols also influence the soil micro- and macro-fauna that break down plant leaf litter. Polyphenols therefore indirectly affect the fluxes of soil nutrients and, ultimately, carbon turnover and ecosystem functioning in soils. It is unknown how earthworms, the major component of animal biomass in many soils, cope with high-polyphenol diets. Here, we show that earthworms possess a class of unique surface-active metabolites in their gut, which we term ‘drilodefensins’. These compounds counteract the inhibitory effects of polyphenols on earthworm gut enzymes, and high-polyphenol diets increase drilodefensin concentrations in both laboratory and field populations. This shows that drilodefensins protect earthworms from the harmful effects of ingested polyphenols. We have identified the key mechanism for adaptation to a dietary challenge in an animal group that has a major role in organic matter recycling in soils worldwide.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 2041-1723
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 17 Nov 2015 15:05 +0 (UTC)

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