Gall-inducing insects exert a unique level of control over the physiology of their host plants. This control can extend to host-plant defenses so that some, if not most, gall-inducing species appear to avoid or modify host plant defenses to effect production of their gall. Included among gall insects is Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor [Say], Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), a damaging pest of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and an emerging model system for studying plant-insect interactions. We studied the dynamics of some defense-related phytohormones and associated fatty acids during feeding of first instar Hessian fly larvae on a susceptible variety of wheat. We found that Hessian fly larvae significantly elevated in their host plants' levels of linolenic and linoleic acids, fatty acids that may be nutritionally beneficial. Hessian fly larvae also elevated levels of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), a phytohormone hypothesized to be involved in gall formation, but not the defense-related hormones jasmonic (JA) and salicylic acids. Moreover, we detected in Hessian fly-infested plants a significant negative relationship between IAA and JA that was not present in control plants. Our results suggest that Hessian fly larvae may induce nutritionally beneficial changes while concomitantly altering phytohormone levels, possibly to facilitate plant-defense avoidance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science