Herbivorous Caterpillars and the Green Leaf Volatile (GLV) Quandary

Anne C. Jones, Tristan M. Cofer, Jurgen Engelberth, James H. Tumlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Several herbivorous caterpillars contain effectors in their oral secretions that alter the emission of green leaf volatiles (GLVs) produced by the plants upon which the caterpillars are feeding. These effectors include an isomerase, a fatty acid dehydratase (FHD), and a heat-stable hexenal trapping (HALT) molecule. GLVs serve as signaling compounds in plant-insect interactions and inter-and intra-plant communication. However, it is not known whether these GLV-altering effectors are common among herbivorous caterpillars, or the evolutionary context of these effectors in relation to GLV emission by host plants in response to feeding damage. Here, we examined the distribution and activity of the isomerase, FHD, and HALT effectors across 10 species spanning 7 lepidopteran families. Six of the 10 species possessed all three effectors in their oral secretions. Activity from the HALT and FHD effectors was observed in all examined caterpillar species, while activity from the isomerase effector varied in some species and was absent in others. There was no discernable pattern in effector activity based on evolutionary divergence, since individual species within a family did not possess similar mechanisms to alter GLV emission. These data, demonstrating the GLV-altering effectors acting at different steps in the GLV biosynthetic pathway and present in the examined caterpillar species at different combinations with different activities, highlight the importance of these effectors in changing the emission of these compounds during caterpillar herbivory. Understanding the prevalence and roles of GLV-altering effectors and GLV emission itself will open new research areas in the dynamics of plant-insect interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-345
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Herbivorous Caterpillars and the Green Leaf Volatile (GLV) Quandary'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this