Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp 3277-3290

Gut redox conditions in herbivorous lepidopteran larvae

  • Heidi M. AppelAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Michigan
  • , Michael M. MartinAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Michigan

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Large interspecific differences in redox potential exist among herbivorous lepidopteran larvae. Reducing conditions occur in the midguts ofManduca sexta (Sphingidae) andPolia latex (Noctuidae), whereas oxidizing conditions prevail in the midguts ofLymantria dispar (Lymantriidae),Danaus plexippus (Danaidae), andPapilio glaucus (Papilionidae). The epithelium of the posterior midgut ofM. sexta fed a diet containing bismuth subnitrate accumulates bismuth sulfide, suggesting that sulfide might be one of the reducing agents responsible for the maintenance of reducing conditions in this species. We propose that the effects of plant allelochemicals in insect herbivores will be strongly affected by gut redox conditions and that the regulation of gut redox conditions is an important adaptation of insect herbivores to the chemical defenses of plants. The redox state of the gut is yet another insect trait that must be included in the analysis of plant-insect interactions.

Key Words

Plant-insect interactions redox reduction potential digestion Lepidoptera Danaus plexippus Lymantria dispar Manduca sexta Papilio glaucus Polia latex Danaidae Lymantriidae Sphingidae Papilionidae Noctuidae