Can narrow-bandwidth light from UV-A to green alter secondary plant metabolism and increase Brassica plant defenses against aphids?

PLoS One. 2017 Nov 30;12(11):e0188522. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188522. eCollection 2017.


Light of different wavelengths is essential for plant growth and development. Short-wavelength radiation such as UV can shift the composition of flavonoids, glucosinolates, and other plant metabolites responsible for enhanced defense against certain herbivorous insects. The intensity of light-induced, metabolite-based resistance is plant- and insect species-specific and depends on herbivore feeding guild and specialization. The increasing use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in horticultural plant production systems in protected environments enables the creation of tailor-made light scenarios for improved plant cultivation and induced defense against herbivorous insects. In this study, broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) plants were grown in a climate chamber under broad spectra photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) and were additionally treated with the following narrow-bandwidth light generated with LEDs: UV-A (365 nm), violet (420 nm), blue (470 nm), or green (515 nm). We determined the influence of narrow-bandwidth light on broccoli plant growth, secondary plant metabolism (flavonol glycosides and glucosinolates), and plant-mediated light effects on the performance and behavior of the specialized cabbage aphid Brevicoryne brassicae. Green light increased plant height more than UV-A, violet, or blue LED treatments. Among flavonol glycosides, specific quercetin and kaempferol glycosides were increased under violet light. The concentration of 3-indolylmethyl glucosinolate in plants was increased by UV-A treatment. B. brassicae performance was not influenced by the different light qualities, but in host-choice tests, B. brassicae preferred previously blue-illuminated plants (but not UV-A-, violet-, or green-illuminated plants) over control plants.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aphids / physiology*
  • Brassica / immunology
  • Brassica / metabolism*
  • Coumaric Acids / metabolism
  • Glucosinolates / metabolism
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Kaempferols / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves
  • Quercetin / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Coumaric Acids
  • Glucosinolates
  • Indoles
  • Kaempferols
  • kaempferol
  • Quercetin

Grant support

The research project was funded by the German Research Foundation DFG, grant Po 207/39-1 ( The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.