Avoidance of antinutritive plant defense: Role of midgut pH in Colorado potato beetle

G. W. Felton, J. Workman, S. S. Duffey

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The fate of the tomato foliar phenolic, chlorogenic acid, in the digestive systems of Colorado potato beetle Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and Helicoverpa tea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is compared. In larval H. zea and other lepidopteran species previously examined, approximately 35-50% of the ingested chlorogenic acid was oxidized in the digestive system by foliar phenolic oxidases (i.e., polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase) from the tomato plant. The oxidized form of chlorogenic acid, chlorogenoquinone, is a potent alkylator of dietary protein and can exert a strong antinutritive effect upon larvae through chemical degradation of essential amino acids. In contrast, in L. decemlineata less than 4% of the ingested dose of chlorogenic acid was bound to protein. In vitro experiments to determine the influence of pH on covalent binding of chlorogenic acid to protein showed that 30-45% less chlorogenic acid bound to protein at pHs representative of the beetle midgut (pH 5.5-6.5) than at a pH representing the lepidopteran midgut (pH 8.5). At an acidic pH, considerably more of the alkylatable functional groups of amino acids (-NH2, -SH) are in the nonreactive, protonated state. Hence, polyphenol oxidases are unlikely to have significant antinutritive effects against the Colorado potato beetle and may not be a useful biochemical source of resistance against this insect. The influence of feeding by larval Colorado potato beetle on foliar polyphenol oxidase activity in tomato foliage and its possible significance to interspecific competition is also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-583
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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