A variety of agricultural plant species, including corn, respond to insect herbivore damage by releasing large quantities of volatile compounds and, as a result, become highly attractive to parasitic wasps that attack the herbivores. An elicitor of plant volatiles, N-(17-hydroxylinolenoyl)-L- glutamine, named volicitin and isolated from beet armyworm caterpillars, is a key component in plant recognition of damage from insect herbivory. Chemical analysis of the oral secretion from beet armyworms that have fed on 13C- labeled corn seedlings established that the fatty acid portion of volicitin is plant derived whereas the 17-hydroxylation reaction and the conjugation with glutamine are carried out by the caterpillar by using glutamine of insect origin. Ironically, these insect-catalyzed chemical modifications to linolenic acid are critical for the biological activity that triggers the release of plant volatiles, which in turn attract natural enemies of the caterpillar.
|Number of pages
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
|Published - Nov 10 1998