Nitrogen deficiency increases volicitin-induced volatile emission, jasmonic acid accumulation, and ethylene sensitivity in maize

Eric A. Schmelz, Hans T. Alborn, Juergen Engelberth, James H. Tumlinson

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122 Scopus citations


Insect herbivore-induced plant volatile emission and the subsequent attraction of natural enemies is facilitated by fatty acid-amino acid conjugate (FAC) elicitors, such as volicitin [N-(17-hydroxylinolenoyl)-L-glutamine], present in caterpillar oral secretions. Insect-induced jasmonic acid (JA) and ethylene (E) are believed to mediate the magnitude of this variable response. In maize (Zea mays) seedlings, we examined the interaction of volicitin, JA, and E on the induction of volatile emission at different levels of nitrogen (N) availability that are known to influence E sensitivity. N availability and volicitin-induced sesquiterpene emission are inversely related as maximal responses were elicited in N-deficient plants. Plants with low N availability demonstrated similar volatile responses to volicitin (1 nmol plant -1) and JA (100 nmol plant-1). In contrast, plants with medium N availability released much lower amounts of volicitin-induced sesquiterpenes compared with JA, suggesting an alteration in volicitin-induced JA levels. As predicted, low N plants exhibited greater sustained increases in wound- and volicitin-induced JA levels compared with medium N plants. N availability also altered volicitin-E interactions. In low N plants, E synergized volicitin-induced sesquiterpene and indole emission 4- to 12-fold, with significant interactions first detected at 10 nL L-1 E. Medium N plants demonstrated greatly reduced volicitin-E interactions. Volicitin-induced sesquiterpene emission was increased by E and was decreased by pretreatment the E perception inhibitor 1-methylcyclopropene without alteration in volicitin-induced JA levels. N availability influences plant responses to insect-derived elicitors through changes in E sensitivity and E-independent JA kinetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-306
Number of pages12
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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