Sequestration of host plant carotenoids in the larval tissues of Helicoverpa zea

H. Eichenseer, J. B. Murphy, G. W. Felton

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18 Scopus citations


To determine the cause of the unique yellow coloration in mandibular glands of soybean-fed Helicoverpa zea larvae, the accumulation of carotenoids in various tissues of last instar larvae fed soybean, cotton and tomato foliage was quantified. Five carotenoids were detected in the foliage of all host plants but at significantly different concentrations. Xanthophylls rather than carotenes were most likely to accumulate in larval tissues. Carotenoids accumulated at different rates and some were significantly affected by larval diet. Highest levels of carotenoid accumulation, notably lutein, were detected in the testes, followed by midgut epithelium, fat body and integument. The midgut epithelium contained the greatest and the testes the least diversity of carotenoid types. Low levels of lutein were detected in both labial and mandibular glands. Tomato foliage had the highest carotenoid content and caterpillar tissues fed these leaves often had the highest amounts of carotenoid. However, the accumulation of carotenoids did not protect larvae from antibiotic effects of tomato foliage because these caterpillars had the highest mortality and slowest growth rates of all the three host plants. Transport and absorption of lipid and oxidative stress may be some reasons for differential carotenoid accumulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-318
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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