Cereals use chemical defenses in a multifunctional manner against different herbivores

A team of scientists from the University of Bern (Switzerland) and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and their partners have characterized multiple functions of benzoxazinoids in wheat: The toxic form of the substances makes the plant directly resistant to lepidopteran larvae, whereas a less toxic form regulates indirect defense mechanisms against aphids. Scientists have identified the “switch” between these different functions as a methyltransferase enzyme, which is activated by caterpillar feeding. This switch enables wheat plants to adapt their defense response to different herbivores. (Mehr in: Pressemitteilungen – idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft)