Volicitin (N-[17-hydroxylinolenoyl]-L glutamine) present in the regurgitant of beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) activates the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when in contact with damaged corn (Zea mays L.) leaves. VOC emission in turn serves as a signaling defense for the plant by attracting female parasitic wasps that prey on herbivore larvae. Chemical tracking of volicitin within plants has yet to be reported. Here we present biochemical data that beet armyworm regurgitant serves as a vector for the introduction of volicitin to the site of leaf damage under natural feeding conditions. Corn seedlings were 14CO2-labeled in situ, and beet armyworm larvae were allowed to feed on the labeled leaves. Herbivore oral secretions collected from late-third-instar larvae contained approximately 120 pmol volicitin (0.05 nCi pmol-1) per larva. When radiochemically labeled larvae were placed on unlabeled leaves, the amount of volicitin introduced to the damaged site was approximately 5.0 nCi (calc. 100 pmol/larvae). The mobility of volicitin in leaves was examined by allowing radiolabeled beet armyworms to feed on unlabeled plants. In such tracking experiments, radioactivity was not detected in the upper leaves; however, the exogenous application of 5 nCi of [U-14C]sucrose to the lower leaf did result in subsequent radioactivity being detected in the upper portion of the plant. The detection of labeled sucrose with the same radioactivity as that of administered volicitin indicated that volicitin was not readily transported to undamaged leaves and that volicitin may not directly serve as a mobile messenger in triggering the emissions of VOCs systemically.
- Herbivore damage
- Wound response