Plants attacked by insect herbivores release a blend of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that serve as chemical cues for host location by parasitic wasps, natural enemies of the herbivores. Volicitin, N-(17-hydroxylinolenoyl)-l-glutamine, is one of the most active VOC elicitors found in herbivore regurgitants. Our previous study revealed that hydroxylation on the 17th position of the linolenic acid moiety of N-linolenoyl-l-glutamine increases by more than three times the elicitor activity in corn plants. Here, we identified N-(18-hydroxylinolenoyl)-l-glutamine (18OH-volicitin) from larval gut contents of tobacco hornworm (THW), Manduca sexta. Eggplant and tobacco, two solanaceous host plants of THW larvae, and corn, a non-host plant, responded differently to this new elicitor. Eggplant and tobacco seedlings emitted twice the amount of VOCs when 18OH-volicitin was applied to damaged leaf surfaces compared to N-linolenoyl-l-glutamine, while both these fatty acid amino acid conjugates (FACs) elicited a similar response in corn seedlings. In both solanaceous plants, there was no significant difference in the elicitor activity of 17OH- and 18OH-volicitin. Interestingly, other lepidopteran species that have 17OH-type volicitin also attack solanaceous plants. These data suggest that plants have developed herbivory-detection systems customized to their herbivorous enemies.
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