Inheritance of electrophysiological responses to leaf saps of host- and nonhost plants in two helicoverpa species and their hybrids

Q.B. Tang, L.Q. Huang, C.Z. Wang, Q.B.T. Tang, H. Zhan, J.J.A. van Loon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The polyphagous cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera (Hubner) and the oligophagous oriental tobacco budworm Helicoverpa assulta (Guenee) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) display contrasting heritable feeding preferences for cotton and pepper leaves. In this study, electrophysiological response patterns to cotton and pepper leaf saps in gustatory sensilla styloconica on the maxillae of these two species, their reciprocal F1 hybrids, and backcrossed lines were investigated using the tip recording technique. The identity of the neurons responding to the two leaf saps has been established using action potential waveform analysis. The two plant leaf saps elicited neural activity in at least six of the eight taste neurons innervating the lateral and medial sensilla styloconica of the parental species and crosses. Discriminant analysis of this multineural input predicted that correct classification occurred in 87 - 92% of the cases. Differences in taste neuron responses between insect lines to the two plant saps were consistent with differences in feeding preference behaviors. Comparisons of taste neuron response patterns of parental species, F1 hybrids and backcrosses indicate that autosomal loci contributed to the difference in gustatory response patterns between the two Helicoverpa species with the H. armigera derived alleles being partly dominant to those carried by H. assulta. These findings contribute to the understanding of gustatory codes for preference and provide insight into taste evolution of lepidopteran insects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-32
JournalArchives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • contact chemoreception
  • gustatory sensitivity
  • recognition cue
  • pieris-rapae
  • bombyx-mori
  • larvae
  • lepidoptera
  • caterpillars
  • noctuidae
  • evolution


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