Entomology, Department of


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Phytochemistry 218 (2024) 113957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phytochem.2023.113957


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Plant-derived volatiles are important mediators of plant-insect interactions as they can provide cues for host location and quality, or act as direct or indirect defense molecules. The volatiles produced by Zea mays (maize) include a range of terpenes, likely produced by several of the terpene synthases (TPS) present in maize. Determining the roles of specific terpene volatiles and individual TPSs in maize-insect interactions is challenging due to the promiscuous nature of TPSs in vitro and their potential for functional redundancy. In this study, we used metabolite GWAS of a sweetcorn diversity panel infested with Spodoptera frugiperda (fall armyworm) to identify genetic correlations between TPSs and individual volatiles. This analysis revealed a correlation between maize terpene synthase 1 (ZmTPS1) and emission of the monoterpene volatiles linalool and β-myrcene. Electroantennogram assays showed gravid S. frugiperda could detect both linalool and β-myrcene. Quantification of headspace volatiles in a maize tps1 loss-of-function mutant confirmed that ZmTPS1 is an important contributor to linalool and β-myrcene emission in maize. Furthermore, pairwise choice assays between tps1 mutant and wildtype plants showed that ZmTPS1, and by extension its volatile products, aid host location in the chewing insect S. frugiperda, yet repel the sap-sucking pest, Rhopalosiphum maidis (corn leaf aphid). On the other hand, ZmTPS1 had no impact on indirect defense via the recruitment of the parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris. ZmTPS1 is therefore an important mediator of the interactions between maize and its insect pests.

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