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α-Amylase Mediates Host Acceptance in the Braconid Parasitoid Cotesia flavipes


Foraging parasitoids use chemical signals in host recognition and selection processes. Although, the volatiles play a relevant role in the localization by parasitoids of their hosts feeding on plants, the host identification process for acceptance occurs mainly during contact between the parasitoid and its host where host products related to feeding activities, fecal pellets and oral secretions, play a crucial role. The purpose of this study was to identify the nature of the contact kairomone(s) that mediate the acceptance for oviposition of the parasitoid Cotesia flavipes Cameron (Hymenoptera, Braconidae), which was released in Kenya in 1993 to control the invasive crambid Chilo partellus (Swinhoe). Using host and non-hosts of C. flavipes, we showed that it is mainly the oral secretions of the larvae that harbour the active compound(s) that mediate host acceptance for oviposition by C. flavipes. Using an integration of behavioral observations and biochemical approaches, the active compound of the oral secretions was identified as an α-amylase. Using synthetized α-amylases from Drosophila melanogaster (an insect model for which syntheses of active and inactive α-amylases are available), we observed that the conformation of the enzyme rather than its catalytic site as well as its substrate and its degradation product is responsible for host acceptance and oviposition mediation of C. flavipes females. The results suggest that the α-amylase from oral secretions of the caterpillar host is a good candidate for an evolutionary solution to host acceptance for oviposition in C. flavipes.

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The authors wish to thank IRD and ANR ABC PaPoGen (ANR-12-ADAP-0001) for funding the research; DAAD for funding the PhD fellowship under the grant number 91560009, University of Nairobi and icipe capacity building for hosting the PhD student. We thank Julius Obonyo and Peter Malusi for rearing the host insects and the parasitoids, and Peter Ahuya from icipe (Nairobi, Kenya) for his technical assistance in collecting the oral secretions of C. partellus. Thanks also to Fritz Schulthess for his review of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Paul-André Calatayud.

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Video showing the behavior of a gravid Cotesia flavipes female on a cotton wool ball with 1 μl of oral secretion of Chilo partellus. The parasitic wasp exhibited host recognition and acceptance by antennating the surface of the cotton wool ball followed by at least one stinging attempt indicating acceptance for oviposition. (MOV 1625 kb)


(DOCX 1163 kb)


Results of proteins and peptides obtained by X!Tandem as well as proteins and peptides obtained by de novo (see attached excel table). (XLSX 41 kb)


(DOCX 98 kb)

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Bichang’a, G., Da Lage, J., Capdevielle-Dulac, C. et al. α-Amylase Mediates Host Acceptance in the Braconid Parasitoid Cotesia flavipes. J Chem Ecol 44, 1030–1039 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-018-1002-9

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  • Biological control
  • Pest insects
  • Lepidoptera stemborers
  • Chilo partellus
  • Cotesia flavipes
  • Kairomone
  • α-amylase
  • Host recognition
  • Parasitoids
  • Host oral secretion
  • Multitrophic interactions
  • Semiochemicals