The aphid Myzus persicae displays high mortality on tobacco plants bearing a transgene which results in the accumulation of the ketosteroids cholestan-3-one and cholest-4-en-3-one in the phloem sap. To test whether the ketosteroids are the basis of the plant resistance to the aphids, M. persicae were reared on chemically-defined diets with different steroid contents at 0.1-10 µg ml(-1). Relative to sterol-free diet and dietary supplements of the two ketosteroids and two phytosterols, dietary cholesterol significantly extended aphid lifespan and increased fecundity at one or more dietary concentrations tested. Median lifespan was 50% lower on the diet supplemented with cholest-4-en-3-one than on the cholesterol-supplemented diet. Aphid feeding rate did not vary significantly across the treatments, indicative of no anti-feedant effect of any sterol/steroid. Aphids reared on diets containing equal amounts of cholesterol and cholest-4-en-3-one showed fecundity equivalent to aphids on diets containing only cholesterol. Aphids were reared on diets that reproduced the relative steroid abundance in the phloem sap of the control and modified tobacco plants, and their performance on the two diet formulations was broadly equivalent. We conclude that, at the concentrations tested, plant ketosteroids support weaker aphid performance than cholesterol, but do not cause acute toxicity to the aphids. In plants, the ketosteroids may act synergistically with plant factors absent from artificial diets but are unlikely to be solely responsible for resistance of modified tobacco plants.