Biotic elicitors produced by plant pathogens or herbivore pests rapidly activate a range of plant chemical defenses when translocated to plant tissue. The fatty acid conjugate volicitin has proven to be a robust elicitor model for studying herbivore-induced plant defense responses. Here we review the role of insect-derived volicitin (N-[17-hydroxylinolenoyl]-L-glutamine) as an authentic elicitor of defense responses, specifically as an activator of signal volatiles that attract natural enemies of herbivore pests. Comparisons are drawn between volicitin as an elicitor of plant defenses and two other classes of signaling molecules, C-6 green-leaf volatiles and C-4 bacterial volatiles that appear to prime plant defenses thereby enhancing the capacity to mobilize cellular defense responses when a plant is faced with herbivore or pathogen attack.
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