Genes, enzymes and chemicals of terpenoid diversity in the constitutive and induced defence of conifers against insects and pathogens*


  • *

    Dedicated to the memory of Dr Vince R. Franceschi, pioneer researcher in conifer plant defence.

Author for correspondence: Jörg Bohlmann Tel: (604) 822 0282 Fax: (604) 822 2114 Email:



  •  Summary 657

  • I. Introduction 658
  • II. Identification and functional characterization of  terpenoid pathway genes 658
  • III. Insect interactions with conifers 667
  • IV. Conclusions and outlook 670
  •  Acknowledgements 671

  •  References 671


Insects select their hosts, but trees cannot select which herbivores will feed upon them. Thus, as long-lived stationary organisms, conifers must resist the onslaught of varying and multiple attackers over their lifetime. Arguably, the greatest threats to conifers are herbivorous insects and their associated pathogens. Insects such as bark beetles, stem- and wood-boring insects, shoot-feeding weevils, and foliage-feeding budworms and sawflies are among the most devastating pests of conifer forests. Conifer trees produce a great diversity of compounds, such as an enormous array of terpenoids and phenolics, that may impart resistance to a variety of herbivores and microorganisms. Insects have evolved to specialize in resistance to these chemicals – choosing, feeding upon, and colonizing hosts they perceive to be best suited to reproduction. This review focuses on the plant–insect interactions mediated by conifer-produced terpenoids. To understand the role of terpenoids in conifer–insect interactions, we must understand how conifers produce the wide diversity of terpenoids, as well as understand how these specific compounds affect insect behaviour and physiology. This review examines what chemicals are produced, the genes and proteins involved in their biosynthesis, how they work, and how they are regulated. It also examines how insects and their associated pathogens interact with, elicit, and are affected by conifer-produced terpenoids.