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Plant iron acquisition strategy exploited by an insect herbivore

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Science  17 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6403, pp. 694-697
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4082

Pest subverts host plant's foraging

Plants need iron as a micronutrient, and they extract it from the rhizosphere by secreting chelating agents. Insect pests, such as the western corn rootworm, which annually cause millions of dollars' worth of lost yield, need iron, too. Hu et al. show that the rootworm exploits the plant's own iron-foraging system to detect its host and to seize iron for itself (see the Perspective by Kliebenstein). Plants produce benzoxazinoid compounds not only as a defense against many insects but also as iron chelators. Rootworm larvae are not harmed by benzoxazinoids; instead, they take advantage of their presence as a signal that food is near and of their properties as an iron chelator.

Science, this issue p. 694; see also p. 642

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