Dietary exposure of insects to a feeding deterrent substance for hours to days can induce habituation and concomitant desensitization of the response of peripheral gustatory neurons to such a substance. In the present study, larvae of the herbivore Helicoverpa armigera were fed on diets containing either a high, medium or low concentration of sucrose, a major feeding stimulant. The responsiveness of the sucrose-best neuron in the lateral sensilla styloconica on the galea was quantified. Results showed the response of the sucrose-best neuron exposed to high-sucrose diets decreased gradually over successive generations, resulting in complete desensitization in the 5 th and subsequent generations. However, the sensitivity was completely restored in the ninth generation after neonate larvae were exposed to low-sucrose diet. These findings demonstrate phenotypic plasticity and exclude inadvertent artificial selection for low sensitivity to sucrose. No significant changes were found in the sensitivity of caterpillars which experienced low-or medium-sucrose diets over the same generations. Such desensitization versus re-sensitization did not generalise to the phagosimulant myo-inositol-sensitive neuron or the feeding deterrent-sensitive neuron. Our results demonstrate that under conditions of high sucrose availability trans-generational desensitization of a neuron sensitive to this feeding stimulant becomes more pronounced whereas re-sensitization occurs within one generation.
|Publication status||Published - 2016|