Concerted biosynthesis of an insect elicitor of plant volatiles

P. W. Paré, H. T. Alborn, J. H. Tumlinson

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A variety of agricultural plant species, including corn, respond to insect herbivore damage by releasing large quantities of volatile compounds and, as a result, become highly attractive to parasitic wasps that attack the herbivores. An elicitor of plant volatiles, N-(17-hydroxylinolenoyl)-L- glutamine, named volicitin and isolated from beet armyworm caterpillars, is a key component in plant recognition of damage from insect herbivory. Chemical analysis of the oral secretion from beet armyworms that have fed on 13C- labeled corn seedlings established that the fatty acid portion of volicitin is plant derived whereas the 17-hydroxylation reaction and the conjugation with glutamine are carried out by the caterpillar by using glutamine of insect origin. Ironically, these insect-catalyzed chemical modifications to linolenic acid are critical for the biological activity that triggers the release of plant volatiles, which in turn attract natural enemies of the caterpillar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13971-13975
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 10 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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