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Messages from the other side: parasites receive damage cues from their host plants

Messages from the other side: parasites receive damage cues from their host plants

Tjiurutue, Muvari Connie, Stevenson, Philip C. ORCID: 0000-0002-0736-3619 and Adler, Lynn S. (2016) Messages from the other side: parasites receive damage cues from their host plants. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 42 (8). pp. 821-828. ISSN 0098-0331 (Print), 1573-1561 (Online) (doi:

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As sessile organisms, plants rely on their environment for cues indicating imminent herbivory. These cues can originate from tissues on the same plant or from different individuals. Since parasitic plants form vascular connections with their host, parasites have the potential to receive cues from hosts that allow them to adjust defenses against future herbivory. However, the role of plant communication between hosts and parasites for herbivore defense remains poorly investigated. Here we examined the effects of damage to lupine hosts (Lupinus texensis) on responses of the attached hemiparasite (Castilleja indivisa), and indirectly, on a specialist herbivore of the parasite, buckeyes (Junonia coenia). Lupines produce alkaloids as defenses against herbivore that can be taken up by the parasite. We found that damage to lupine host plants by beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) significantly increased jasmonic acid (JA) levels in both the lupine host and parasite, suggesting uptake of phytohormones or priming of parasite defenses using host cues. However, lupine host damage did not induce changes in alkaloid levels in the hosts or parasites. Interestingly, the parasite had substantially higher concentrations of JA and alkaloids compared to lupine host plants. Buckeye herbivores consumed more parasite tissue when attached to damaged compared to undamaged hosts. We hypothesize that increased JA due to lupine host damage induced higher iridoid glycosides in the parasite, which are feeding stimulants for this specialist herbivore. Our results demonstrate that damage to hosts may affect both parasites and associated herbivores, indicating cascading effects of host damage on multiple trophic levels.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The final publication is available at Springer via
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alkaloids; Herbivory; Parasitism; Plant communication; Plant-plant interactions; Performance; Phytohormones.
Subjects: S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Chemical Ecology Research Group
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2018 12:09

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