Footsteps from insect larvae damage leaf surfaces and initiate rapid responses

D.E. Hall, K.B. MacGregor, J. Nijsse, A.W. Bown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Plant resistance to insect herbivory involves gene expression in response to wounding and the detection of insect elicitors in oral secretions (Kessler and Baldwin, 2002, Ann. Rev. Plant/ Biol. 53: 299¿328). However, crawling insect larvae stimulate the synthesis of 4-aminobutyrate within minutes and imprints of larval footsteps can be visualized within seconds through superoxide production or transient increases in chlorophyll fluorescence (Bown et al., 2002, Plant Physiol. 129: 1430¿1434). Here cryo-scanning electron microscopy was used to demonstrate that larval feet, which are equipped with a perimeter row of hook-like crochets, damage leaf tissue and result in larval footprints. Staining for cell death shows that areas of wounding correspond to footsteps detected through increased chlorophyll fluorescence. Superoxide production in response to footsteps was inhibited by diphenyleneiodonium, an inhibitor of the plasma membrane NADPH oxidase enzyme. Inhibition of superoxide production, however, did not eliminate the detection of cell death. The results demonstrate that larval footsteps damage leaf tissue, and initiate rapid local responses which are not dependent on herbivory or oral secretions. It is proposed that superoxide production at the wound site prevents opportunistic pathogen infection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-447
JournalEuropean Journal of Plant Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • gamma-aminobutyric-acid
  • induced resistance
  • oxidative burst
  • leaves
  • herbivory
  • plants
  • accumulation
  • superoxide
  • components
  • systemin

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