Detoxification of plant defensive glucosinolates by an herbivorous caterpillar is beneficial to its endoparasitic wasp

Ruo Sun, Rieta Gols, Jeffrey A. Harvey, Michael Reichelt, Jonathan Gershenzon, Sagar S. Pandit, Daniel G. Vassão*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Plant chemical defences impact not only herbivores, but also organisms in higher trophic levels that prey on or parasitize herbivores. While herbivorous insects can often detoxify plant chemicals ingested from suitable host plants, how such detoxification affects endoparasitoids that use these herbivores as hosts is largely unknown. Here, we used transformed plants to experimentally manipulate the major detoxification reaction used by Plutella xylostella (diamondback moth) to deactivate the glucosinolate defences of its Brassicaceae host plants. We then assessed the developmental, metabolic, immune, and reproductive consequences of this genetic manipulation on the herbivore as well as its hymenopteran endoparasitoid Diadegma semiclausum. Inhibition of P. xylostella glucosinolate metabolism by plant-mediated RNA interference increased the accumulation of the principal glucosinolate activation products, the toxic isothiocyanates, in the herbivore, with negative effects on its growth. Although the endoparasitoid manipulated the excretion of toxins by its insect host to its own advantage, the inhibition of herbivore glucosinolate detoxification slowed endoparasitoid development, impaired its reproduction, and suppressed the expression of genes of a parasitoid-symbiotic polydnavirus that aids parasitism. Therefore, the detoxification of plant glucosinolates by an herbivore lowers its toxicity as a host and benefits the parasitoid D. semiclausum at multiple levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4014-4031
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number20
Early online date27 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • detoxification
  • glucosinolate-myrosinase system
  • isothiocyanate
  • multitrophic interaction
  • parasitism

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