Flavonoids from cabbage are feeding stimulants for diamondback moth larvae additional to glucosinolates : chemoreception and behaviour

J.J.A. van Loon, C.Z. Wang, J.K. Nielsen, R. Gols, Y.T. Qiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


In caterpillars two styloconic contact chemoreceptors on the maxillary galea are assumed to contain the main taste receptors involved in host plant selection. The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella L. is a specialist feeder of plants in the Brassicaceae, a plant family characterized by the biosynthesis of glucosinolates. We used pea (Pisum sativum L., Leguminosae) as a neutral non-host for a dual-choice leaf disc assay to quantify feeding stimulation by glucosinolates and flavonoids. Increasing concentrations of sinigrin resulted in significant preferences for sinigrin-treated leaf discs, with a threshold between 1 and 3 μM. Millimolar concentrations of four of the five flavonol triglucosides likewise elicited a significant preference for flavonoid-treated leaf discs. A mixture of four flavonoids and sinigrin was significantly preferred over sinigrin-treated leaf discs alone. Vigorous unicellular electrophysiological responses of medial maxillary styloconic taste sensilla were observed in response to five glucosinolates (glucocapparin, sinigrin, glucobrassicin, glucoiberin, and gluconasturtiin). This medial taste neuron responded in a dose-dependent manner to a concentration series of sinigrin, with a threshold of response of ca. 1 μM. The lateral sensillum styloconicum contained a neuron sensitive to sucrose, glucose, and fructose. However, no responses in the two types of maxillary styloconic sensilla to the phagostimulatory flavonoids could be detected, suggesting that other taste organs mediate chemoreception of flavonoids. We conclude that diamondback moth larvae employ a combination of biosynthetically distinct categories of feeding stimulants which allows for a higher degree of discriminatory ability than when this would be based on glucosinolates alone.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • brassica oleracea
  • flavonoids
  • host plants
  • plutella xylostella
  • stimulants


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