Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 8, pp 1045–1049 | Cite as

Phytopathogen Lures Its Insect Vector by Altering Host Plant Odor

  • Christoph J. Mayer
  • Andreas Vilcinskas
  • Jürgen Gross
Rapid Communication


Many phytopathogens that cause worldwide losses of agricultural yield are vectored by herbivorous insects. Limited information is available about the interactions among phytopathogens, host plants, and insect vectors. In this paper, we report that the cell wall-lacking bacterium Candidatus Phytoplasma mali can alter both the odor of its host plant (apple) and behavior of its vector, the univoltine psyllid Cacopsylla picta. Apple trees infected by this phytoplasma emitted higher amounts of β-caryophyllene when compared to uninfected ones. Psyllids that had no previous contact with Ca. P. mali, as well as infected pyllids, are more attracted by volatiles emitted from phytoplasma-infected apple plants than from uninfected ones. Psyllids that had developed on infected plants without getting infected showed the opposite behavior. These results suggest that the pathogen modifies host plant odor that lures its vector to infected plants. This may result in higher numbers of transmitting vector insects within the population.


Apple proliferation Vector–plant–pathogen interaction β-Caryophyllene Candidatus Phytoplasma mali Cacopsylla picta Malus domestica 



C.J.M and J.G. thank the German Research Foundation (DFG) for funding (GR 2645/1,2). J.G. is grateful to the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft for additional funding (innovative research award). We thank Antje Reinhardt and Kai Lukat for technical assistance and Eva Gross for linguistic improvements.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph J. Mayer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andreas Vilcinskas
    • 1
  • Jürgen Gross
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Phytopathology and Applied ZoologyJustus-Liebig University of GiessenGießenGermany
  2. 2.Julius Kuehn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated PlantsInstitute for Plant Protection in Fruit Crops and ViticultureDossenheimGermany

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