Benzoxazinoids at the plant-insect interface

An integrated approach to understand a metabolic network

In order to grow and develop, many organisms, including insect herbivores, have to ingest and convert plant metabolomes to suit their own nutritional needs. A widespread counter-strategy of plants is to resist herbivory by producing repellent, toxic or inhibitory secondary metabolites. It is becoming increasingly clear that the plant metabolism responds dynamically to insect feeding, and spezialized insects in turn have evolved mechanisms to quickly counteract these chemical defense responses in host plants, which leads to interdependent, iterative metabolic interactions. To determine the actual metabolic drivers of the interactions between pants and insects, it is therefore necessary to investigate their metabolism simultaneously. Because this can only be achieved within an interdisciplinary approach, few attempts have been made in this direction.

In the course of this project, we study benzoxazinoid derivatives (BXDs), an important class of nitrogen-containing defensive secondary metabolites in maize in both plants and insect herbivores. Our previous research showed that BXDs represent an ideal pilot model to investigate the plant-insect interface, as they react dynamically to insect attack in planta and are actively influencing the metabolism, behavior and fitness of lepidopteran maize pests, including Spodoptera frugiperda and Ostrinia nubilalis. Because of the apparent potential of BXDs to reduce leaf damage by insects, they are not only of considerable interest for a fundamental understanding of plant-insect ecology, but also for application in agriculture.

The project unites the expertise of the FARCE lab at the University of Neuchâtel, the agricultural research station Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil, the University of Geneva, the Chemical Analytical Service of the Swiss Plant Science Web, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology .

Sinergia group meeting in La Sauge, March 2013.



Maag D., Erb M., Bernal J.S., Wolfender J.-L., Turlings T.C.J., Glauser G. (2015). Maize domestication and anti-herbivore defences: Leaf-specific dynamics during early ontogeny of maize and its wild ancestors. PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135722

Maag D., Erb M., Glauser G. (2015). Metabolomics in plant-herbivore interactions: Challenges and applications. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. doi: 10.1111/eea.12336

Maag D., Erb M., Köllner T.G., Gershenzon J. (2015). Defensive weapons and defense signals in plants: Some metabolites serve both roles. BioEssays, 37(2), 167-174. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400124

Köhler A.*, Maag D.*, Veyrat N., Glauser G., Wolfender J.-L., Turlings T.C.J., Erb M. (2015). Within-plant distribution of 1,4-benzoxazin-3-ones contributes to herbivore niche differentiation in maize. Plant, Cell and Environment, 38(6), 1081-1093. *Equal contribution. doi: 10.1111/pce.12464

Wouters F.C., Reichelt M., Glauser G., Bauer E., Erb M., Gershenzon J. and Vassao D.G. (2014). Reglucosylation of the benzoxazinoid DIMBOA with inversion of stereochemical configuration is a detoxification strategy of lepidopteran herbivores. Angewandte Chemie, 126(42), 11502-11506. doi: 10.1002/ange.201406643

Maag D., Dalvit C., Köhler A., Thevenet D., Wouters F.C., Vassao D.G., Gershenzon J.G., Wolfender J.-L., Turlings T.C.J., Erb M. and Glauser G. (2014). 3-β-D-glucopyranosyl-6-methoxy-2-benzoxazolinone (MBOA-N-Glc) is an insect detoxification product of maize 1,4-benzoxazin-3-ones. Phytochemistry, 102, 97-105. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2014.03.018

Meihls L.N. *, Handrick V. *, Glauser G., Barbier H., Kaur H., Haribal M.M., Lipka A.E., Gershenzon J., Buckler E.S., Erb M.*, Köllner T.G*. and Jander G* . (2013). Natural variation in maize aphid resistance is associated with a DIMBOA-Glc methyltransferase.The Plant Cell, 25, 2341-2355. *Equal contribution. doi: 10.1105/tpc.113.112409

Marti G., Erb M., Boccard J., Glauser G., Doyen G.R., Villard N., Turlings T.C.J., Rudaz S., and Wolfender J.-L.  (2013). Metabolomics reveals herbivore-induced metabolites of resistance and susceptibility in maize leaves and roots. Plant Cell and Environment, 36(3), 621-39. doi: 10.1111/pce.12002

Robert C.A.M., Veyrat N., Glauser G., Marti G., Doyen G.R., Villard N., Gaillard M.D.P., Köllner T.G., Giron D., Body M., Babst B.A., Ferrieri R.A., Turlings T.C.J. and Erb M.  (2012). A specialist root herbivore exploits defensive metabolites to locate nutritious tissues. Ecology Letters, 15(1), 55-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01708.x

Glauser G., Marti G., Villard N., Doyen G. A., Wolfender J.-L., Turlings T.C.J. and Erb M.  (2011). Induction and detoxification of maize 1,4-benzoxazin-3-ones by insect herbivores. The  Plant Journal, 68(5), 901-911. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04740.x