• Open Access

Engineering of benzylglucosinolate in tobacco provides proof-of-concept for dead-end trap crops genetically modified to attract Plutella xylostella (diamondback moth)

Authors

  • Morten E. Møldrup,

    1. Section for Molecular Plant Biology, Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark
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  • Fernando Geu-Flores,

    1. Section for Molecular Plant Biology, Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark
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    • Present address: Biological Chemistry Department, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, NR4 7UH, Norwich, United Kingdom.

  • Martin de Vos,

    1. Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Department of Plant Biology, Ithaca, NY, USA
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    • Present address: Keygene N. V., Wageningen, The Netherlands.

  • Carl E. Olsen,

    1. Section for Molecular Plant Biology, Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark
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  • Joel Sun,

    1. Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Department of Plant Biology, Ithaca, NY, USA
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  • Georg Jander,

    1. Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Department of Plant Biology, Ithaca, NY, USA
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  • Barbara A. Halkier

    Corresponding author
    1. Section for Molecular Plant Biology, Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark
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(Tel +45 35333342; email bah@life.ku.dk)

Summary

Glucosinolates are biologically active natural products characteristic of crucifers, including oilseed rape, cabbage vegetables and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Crucifer-specialist insect herbivores, like the economically important pest Plutella xylostella (diamondback moth), frequently use glucosinolates as oviposition stimuli. This suggests that the transfer of a glucosinolate biosynthetic pathway to a non-crucifer would stimulate oviposition on an otherwise non-attractive plant. Here, we demonstrate that stable genetic transfer of the six-step benzylglucosinolate pathway from A. thaliana to Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) results in the production of benzylglucosinolate without causing morphological alterations. Benzylglucosinolate-producing tobacco plants were more attractive for oviposition by female P. xylostella moths than wild-type tobacco plants. As newly hatched P. xylostella larvae were unable to survive on tobacco, these results represent a proof-of-concept strategy for rendering non-host plants attractive for oviposition by specialist herbivores with the long-term goal of generating efficient dead-end trap crops for agriculturally important pests.

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