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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Dec 6;91(25):11836-40.

Diurnal cycle of emission of induced volatile terpenoids by herbivore-injured cotton plant.

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  • 1Insect Attractants, Behavior and Basic Biology Research Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Gainesville, FL 32604, USA.


Cotton plants attacked by herbivorous insect pests emit relatively large amounts of characteristic volatile terpenoids that have been implicated in the attraction of natural enemies of the herbivores. However, the composition of the blend of volatile terpenes released by the plants varies remarkably throughout the photoperiod. Some components are emitted in at least 10-fold greater quantities during the photophase than during the scotophase, whereas others are released continuously, without conforming to a pattern, during the entire time that the plants are under herbivore attack. The diurnal pattern of emission of volatile terpenoids was determined by collecting and analyzing the volatile compounds emitted by cotton plants subjected to feeding damage by beet armyworm larvae in situ. The damage was allowed to proceed for 3 days, and volatile emission was monitored continuously. During early stages of damage high levels of lipoxygenase-derived volatile compounds [e.g., (Z)-3-hexenal, (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate] and several terpene hydrocarbons [e.g., alpha-pinene, caryophyllene] were emitted. As damage proceeded, high levels of other terpenes, all acyclic [e.g., (E)-beta-ocimene, (E)-beta-farnesene], were emitted in a pronounced diurnal fashion; maximal emissions occurred in the afternoon. These acyclic terpenes followed this diurnal pattern of emission, even after removal of the caterpillars, although emission was in somewhat smaller amounts. In contrast, the emission of cyclic terpenes almost ceased after the caterpillars were removed.

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