Indirect plant-mediated effects on insect immunity and disease resistance in a tritrophic system

Ikkei Shikano, Jerry D. Ericsson, Jenny S. Cory, Judith H. Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Host plant quality can significantly influence the growth and condition of phytophagous insects, and consequently their susceptibility to pathogens. This study examined the relationship between host plant quality, insect condition, immune responsiveness and resistance to pathogens in the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni. Two baseline and induced immune parameters were estimated, haemocyte numbers and haemolymph phenoloxidase (PO) activity, for larvae on two host plants, broccoli and cucumber. Haemolymph protein concentration was assessed as an indication of insect condition, and the susceptibility of larvae to T. ni single nucleopolyhedrovirus (SNPV) was used as a measure of disease resistance. T. ni growth, survival and condition was much higher on broccoli than cucumber. Haemocyte numbers were significantly higher in broccoli-reared larvae, whereas PO activity was not. An immune challenge induced significantly elevated numbers of haemocytes for larvae reared on both host plants, but did not affect PO activity or protein concentrations. Susceptibility to T. ni SNPV was markedly higher in larvae reared on cucumber than on broccoli. These results clearly indicate that host plant quality can affect both immune response and disease resistance of T. ni larvae and that bottom-up effects could be important in interactions between insects and entomopathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-22
Number of pages8
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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