Increased plant volatile production affects oviposition, but not larval development, in the moth Helicoverpa armigera

J Exp Biol. 2011 Nov 1;214(Pt 21):3672-7. doi: 10.1242/jeb.059923.


It is well established that herbivorous insects respond to changes in plant odour production, but little attention has been given to whether these responses relate to direct fitness costs of plant volatile production on insect growth and survival. Here, we use transgenic Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) plants that produce relatively large amounts of the volatile (S)-linalool to study whether the responses of egg-laying herbivorous insects to linalool production relate directly to the growth and survival of offspring. In choice tests, fewer eggs were laid on transgenic plants compared with non-transformed controls, indicating that increased linalool emissions have a deterrent effect on Helicoverpa armigera oviposition. Larval survival and larval mass after feeding on transgenic leaves, however, was comparable to non-transformed controls. (S)-linalool, whether in volatile or sequestered form, does not appear to have a direct effect on offspring fitness in this moth. We discuss how the ecology of this polyphagous moth species may necessitate a high tolerance for certain volatiles and their related non-volatile compounds, and suggest that responses by adult female H. armigera moths towards increased linalool production may be context specific and relate to other indirect effects on fitness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Hydro-Lyases / genetics
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Monoterpenes / metabolism
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Moths / drug effects
  • Moths / growth & development*
  • Oviposition / drug effects
  • Oviposition / physiology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Tobacco / metabolism*
  • Transgenes / genetics
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • DNA Primers
  • Monoterpenes
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • linalool
  • Hydro-Lyases
  • S-linalool synthase