Perception of insect feeding by plants


  • Editor
    A. Weber

G. Bonaventure, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Department of Molecular Ecology, Hans-Knoell-Str. 8, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


The recognition of phytophagous insects by plants induces a set of very specific responses aimed at deterring tissue consumption and reprogramming metabolism and development of the plant to tolerate the herbivore. The recognition of insects by plants requires the plant’s ability to perceive chemical cues generated by the insects and to distinguish a particular pattern of tissue disruption. Relatively little is known about the molecular basis of insect perception by plants and the signalling mechanisms directly associated with this perception. Importantly, the insect feeding behaviour (piercing-sucking versus chewing) is a decisive determinant of the plant’s defence response, and the mechanisms used to perceive insects from different feeding guilds may be distinct. During insect feeding, components of the saliva of chewing or piercing-sucking insects come into contact with plant cells, and elicitors or effectors present in this insect-derived fluid are perceived by plant cells to initiate the activation of specific signalling cascades. Although receptor–ligand interactions controlling insect perception have yet not been molecularly described, a significant number of regulatory components acting downstream of receptors and involved in the activation of defence responses against insects has been reported. Some of these regulators mediate changes in the phytohormone network, while others directly control gene expression or the redox state of the cell. These processes are central in the orchestration of plant defence responses against insects.