Glucosinolates (GLS) are secondary plant metabolites that as a result of tissue damage, for example due to herbivory, are hydrolysed into toxic compounds that negatively affect generalist herbivores. Specialist herbivores have evolved specific adaptations to detoxify GLS or inhibit the formation of toxic hydrolytic products. Although rarely studied, GLS and their breakdown products may also affect parasitoids. The objectives were to test the effects of GLS in a multitrophic system consisting of the generalist herbivore Spodoptera exigua, the specialist herbivore Pieris rapae, and the endoparasitoid Hyposoter ebeninus. Three ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana that differ in their GLS composition and concentrations and one transformed line that constitutively produces higher concentrations of aliphatic GLS were used, the latter allowing a direct assessment of the effects of aliphatic GLS on insect performance. Feeding by the generalist S. exigua and the specialist P. rapae induced both higher aliphatic and indole GLS concentrations in the A. thaliana ecotypes, although induction was stronger for indole than aliphatic GLS. For both herbivores a negative correlation between performance and aliphatic GLS concentrations was observed. This suggests that the specialist, despite containing a nitrile-specifier protein (NSP) that diverts GLS degradation from toxic isothiocyanates to less toxic nitriles, cannot completely inhibit the formation of toxic GLS hydrolytic products, or that the costs of this mechanism are higher at higher GLS concentrations. Surprisingly, performance of the parasitoid was positively correlated with higher concentrations of aliphatic GLS in the plant, possibly caused by negative effects on host immune responses. Our study indicates that GLS can not only confer resistance against herbivores directly, but also indirectly by increasing the performance of the parasitoids of these herbivores. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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