BACKGROUND: The induction of plant defenses in response to herbivory is well documented. In addition, many plants prime their anti-herbivore defenses following exposure to environmental cues associated with increased risk of subsequent attack, including induced volatile emissions from herbivore-damaged plant tissues. Recently, we showed in both field and laboratory settings that tall goldenrod plants (Solidago altissima) exposed to the putative sex attractant of a specialist gall-inducing fly (Eurosta solidaginis) experienced less herbivory than unexposed plants. Furthermore, we observed stronger induction of the defense phytohormone jasmonic acid in exposed plants compared to controls. These findings document a novel class of plant-insect interactions mediated by the direct perception, by plants, of insect-derived olfactory cues. However, our previous study did not exclude the possibility that the fly emission (or its residue) might also deter insect feeding via direct effects on the herbivores.<br /><br />RESULTS: Here we show that the E. solidaginis emission does not (directly) deter herbivore feeding on Cucurbita pepo or Symphyotrichum lateriflorum plants--which have no co-evolutionary relationship with E. solidaginis and thus are not expected to exhibit priming responses to the fly emission. We also document stronger induction of herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPV) in S. altissima plants given previous exposure to the fly emission relative to unexposed controls. No similar effect was observed in maize plants (Zea mays), which have no co-evolutionary relationship with E. solidaginis.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Together with our previous findings, these results provide compelling evidence that reduced herbivory on S. altissima plants exposed to the emission of male E. solidaginis reflects an evolved plant response to olfactory cues associated with its specialist herbivore and does not involve direct effects of the fly emission on herbivore feeding behavior. We further discuss mechanisms by which the priming of HIPV responses documented here might contribute to enhanced S. altissima defense against galling.
Helms, A. M., De Moraes, C. M., Mescher, M. C., & Tooker, J. F. (2014). The volatile emission of Eurosta solidaginis primes herbivore-induced volatile production in Solidago altissima and does not directly deter insect feeding. BMC Plant Biology, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2229-14-173