, Volume 222, Issue 2, pp 327–335

Systemic induction of volatile release in cotton: How specific is the signal to herbivory?

Original Article


Plants attacked by herbivorous insects release chemical signals that attract natural enemies of the herbivores to the damaged plants. Feeding of Spodoptera exigua larvae on the lower leaves of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) for multiple feeding periods of 9–12 h with a 12 h, interval in between when the caterpillars are removed overnight, will induce a systemic release of volatile compounds that is comparable to the volatiles released in response to continuous feeding damage on the lower leaves for several days. The systemic volatile release in response to herbivory can be mimicked by mechanically damaging the lower leaves and applying caterpillar oral secretion to the injured leaves over 4 days. Cotton plants that are only mechanically damaged systemically release significantly less β-pinene, myrcene, (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, (E)-β-farnesene and (E,E)-α-farnesene after 4 days compared to plants damaged mechanically with application of caterpillar regurgitant. However, multiple 9–12 h mechanical damage alone induces a significantly higher systemic release of (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, myrcene, (E)-β-ocimene, and (E)-β-farnesene after 4 days compared to undamaged control plants. This indicates that multiple mechanical damage alone cannot mimic completely the response induced by mechanically injuring the leaves and applying caterpillar regurgitant. A specific elicitor in the regurgitant of the caterpillar enhances the amount of several systemically released volatiles. Thus, the systemic release of volatile compounds by herbivore-damaged cotton plants appears to be regulated by at least two different mechanisms.


Caterpillar regurgitant Gossypium Mechanical damage Spodoptera Systemic response Volatiles 



Spodoptera exigua larvae


Volatiles collected from undamaged upper leaves of the caterpillar damaged plant


Volatiles collected from undamaged upper leaves of the artificially damaged plant


Volatiles collected from undamaged upper leaves of the artificially damaged plant with application of regurgitant


Volatiles collected from undamaged upper leaves of an undamaged control plant


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, U.S. Department of AgricultureAgricultural Research ServiceGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Institut Phytosphäre (ICG-III)Forschungszentrum JülichJülichGermany
  3. 3.Department of EntomologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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