Lepidopteran larvae oral secretions and regurgitant (R), which contain a plethora of potential elicitors, are known to dramatically change a plant's wound response. We demonstrate, with a detailed microarray and secondary metabolite analysis, that the two most abundant fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) in the R of the specialist herbivore Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera, Sphingidae) can account for all measured direct (trypsin proteinase inhibitor: TPI) and indirect (cis-α-bergamotene) defences, the endogenous jasmonic acid burst that elicits them, and 86% of the induced transcriptional changes (89% up and 83% down) in its native host Nicotiana attenuata and hence are necessary and sufficient for the Manduca-specific modulation of the wound response. FACs were not found in eggs, but detected in larvae of all instars after their first meal. FACs were found in all regions of the alimentary canal and in the frass, but did not occur in salivary or mandibular glands, extracts of which were not active in any assay. Individual larvae differed substantially in their FAC composition and two FAC chemotypes were discernible: N-linolenoyl-L-glutamine biased R and N-linolenoyl-L-glutamate biased R. We created synthetic blends of FACs to mimic these chemical phenotypes and determined whether plants respond differently to the different R chemotypes. Micorarray and TPI analysis revealed that plants do not differentiate. N. attenuata plants use FACs from feeding caterpillars to tailor their wound responses but do not use the variability in FAC ratios to recognize attack from an individual caterpillar.
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