Effects of genetic modification on herbivore-induced volatiles from maize

Jennifer M. Dean, Consuelo M. De Moraes

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37 Scopus citations


Large-scale implementation of transgenic crop varieties raises concerns about possible nontarget effects on other organisms. This study examines the effects of genetic modification on plant volatile production and its potential impact on arthropod population dynamics. We compared herbivore-induced volatile emissions from Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner (Bt) maize plants to those from a nontransformed isoline following exposure to various types of leaf damage. When equal numbers of Helicoverpa zea Boddie (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) larvae fed on Bt and non-Bt maize, volatile emissions were significantly lower in the transgenic plants, which also exhibited less leaf damage. When damage levels were controlled by adding more larvae to Bt plants, the plants' volatile emissions increased but displayed significant differences from those of nontransgenic plants. Significantly higher amounts of linalool, β-myrcene, and geranyl acetate were released from transgenic maize than from non-Bt plants. Manipulating the duration of feeding by individual larvae to produce similar damage patterns resulted in similar volatile profiles for Bt and non-Bt plants. Controlling damage levels more precisely by mechanically wounding leaves and applying larval regurgitant likewise resulted in similar emission patterns for Bt and non-Bt maize. Overall, changes in the herbivore-induced volatile profiles of Bt maize appeared to be a consequence of altered larval feeding behavior rather than of changes in biochemical plant defense pathways. The implications of these findings for understanding the impacts of plant-mediated cues on pest and natural enemy behavior in transgenic crop systems are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-724
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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