Pathogen-Mediated Tritrophic Interactions: Baculovirus-Challenged Caterpillars Induce Higher Plant Defenses than Healthy Caterpillars

Qinjian Pan, Ikkei Shikano, Kelli Hoover, Tong Xian Liu, Gary W. Felton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Although the tritrophic interactions of plants, insect herbivores and their natural enemies have been intensely studied for several decades, the roles of entomopathogens in their indirect modulation of plant-insect relationships is still unclear. Here, we employed a sublethal dose of a baculovirus with a relatively broad host range (AcMNPV) to explore if feeding by baculovirus-challenged Helicoverpa zea caterpillars induces direct defenses in the tomato plant. We examined induction of plant defenses following feeding by H. zea, including tomato plants fed on by healthy caterpillars, AcMNPV-challenged caterpillars, or undamaged controls, and subsequently compared the transcript levels of defense related proteins (i.e., trypsin proteinase inhibitors, peroxidase and polyphenol oxidase) and other defense genes (i.e., proteinase inhibitor II and cysteine proteinase inhibitor) from these plants, in addition to comparing caterpillar relative growth rates. As a result, AcMNPV-challenged caterpillars induced the highest plant anti-herbivore defenses. We examined several elicitors and effectors in the secretions of these caterpillars (i.e., glucose oxidase, phospholipase C, and ATPase hydrolysis), which surprisingly did not differ between treatments. Hence, we suggest that the greater induction of plant defenses by the virus-challenged caterpillars may be due to differences in the amount of these secretions deposited during feeding or to some other unknown factor(s).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-524
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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