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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 May;21(5):278-86. Epub 2006 Feb 24.

Plant-mediated effects in insect-pathogen interactions.

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  • 1Great Lakes Forestry Centre, 1219 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada P6A 2E5.


Interactions between insect herbivores and their pathogens can be modulated by host plants. Inter- and intraspecific differences in plant chemistry and structure can alter the susceptibility of insects to infection and the production and environmental persistence of pathogens. Whether plants can manipulate insect pathogens to act as "bodyguards" and increase their own fitness remains to be shown. Reduced insect performance owing to poor plant quality can enhance the susceptibility of an insect to disease while these same phytochemicals can also reduce the effectiveness of entomopathogens in killing the host. As we discuss here, plants have an important role in the evolution of insect-pathogen relationships and a tritrophic perspective should thus be incorporated into the study of insects and their pathogens.

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