The role of insect-derived cues in eliciting indirect plant defenses in Tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum

Casey M. Delphia, Mark C. Mescher, Gary W. Felton, Consuelo M. De Moraes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In response to insect feeding, plants release complex volatile blends that are important host-location cues for natural enemies of herbivores. These induced volatile responses are mediated by insect-derived cues and differ significantly from responses to mechanical wounding. To improve understanding of the cues that elicit plant volatile responses, we explored the effects of Heliothis virescens saliva on volatile induction in tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum, using an ablation technique that prevents the release of saliva from the labial glands during feeding. Plants damaged by intact caterpillars released 11 volatile compounds. Ablated caterpillars induced these same 11 compounds plus an additional eight. Of the 11 shared compounds, plants damaged by ablated caterpillars released greater quantities of six, most notably volatile nicotine, compared to plants damaged by intact caterpillars. We further investigated the effects of H. virescens oral secretions on volatile induction through the collection and application of caterpillar regurgitant and saliva to mechanically wounded plants. Plants treated with H. virescens regurgitant released significantly more volatile nicotine than plants treated with saliva or those damaged by intact caterpillars. Additionally, application of a mixture of saliva and regurgitant induced less volatile nicotine compared to treatment with regurgitant alone. Our results suggest that saliva has an inhibitory effect on plant volatile responses to H. virescens feeding and that insect-derived cues originating from both regurgitant and saliva may interact to elicit the volatile "signature" of H. virescens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalPlant Signaling and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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