PerspectivePlant Biology

New Fatty Acid-Based Signals: A Lesson from the Plant World

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Science  09 May 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5314, pp. 912-913
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5314.912

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In the war between plants and plant-eating insects, the rules of conflict can get complex. In this issue, Alborn et al. (p. 945) identify a chemical signal volicitin, produced by the beet armyworm when it consumes maize plants. As discussed by Farmer in his Perspective, volicitin undoubtedly serves an important, but presently unknown, function for the insect. At the same time, however, it also elicits release of volatile molecules from the plant that attract a parasitic wasp, which consumes the beet armyworm, thus defending the plant.