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Biol Lett. 2007 Jun 22;3(3):340-3.

Cytokinin-mediated leaf manipulation by a leafminer caterpillar.

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Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte, UMR-CNRS-6035, UFR Sciences et Techniques, Université François Rabelais, 37200 Tours, France.


A large number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the adaptive significance and evolution of the endophagous-feeding mode, nutritional benefits being considered to be one of the main advantages. Leaf-mining insects should feed on most nutritional tissues and avoid tissues with high structural and/or biochemical plant defences. This selective feeding behaviour could furthermore be reinforced by manipulating the plant physiology, as suggested by the autumnal formation of 'green islands' around mining caterpillars in yellow leaves. The question we address here is how such metabolic manipulation occurs and what the nutritional consequences for the insect are. We report a large accumulation of cytokinins in the mined tissues which is responsible for the preservation of functional nutrient-rich green tissues at a time when leaves are otherwise turning yellow. The analogy with other plant manipulating organisms, in particular galling insects, is striking.

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