Virus infection decreases the attractiveness of white clover plants for a non-vectoring herbivore

T. Molken, H. De Caluwe, C.A. Hordijk, H.A. Leon Reyes, T.A.L. Snoeren, N.M. van Dam, J.F. Stuefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Plant pathogens and insect herbivores are prone to share hosts under natural conditions. Consequently, pathogen-induced changes in the host plant can affect herbivory, and vice versa. Even though plant viruses are ubiquitous in the field, little is known about plant-mediated interactions between viruses and non-vectoring herbivores. We investigated the effects of virus infection on subsequent infestation by a non-vectoring herbivore in a natural genotype of Trifolium repens (white clover). We tested whether infection with White clover mosaic virus (WClMV) alters (1) the effects of fungus gnat feeding on plant growth, (2) the attractiveness of white clover for adult fungus gnat females, and (3) the volatile emission of white clover plants. We observed only marginal effects of WClMV infection on the interaction between fungus gnat larvae and white clover. However, adult fungus gnat females clearly preferred non-infected over WClMV-infected plants. Non-infected and virus-infected plants could easily be discriminated based on their volatile blends, suggesting that the preference of fungus gnats for non-infected plants may be mediated by virus-induced changes in volatile emissions. The compound β-caryophyllene was exclusively detected in the headspace of virus-infected plants and may hence be particularly important for the preference of fungus gnat females. Our results demonstrate that WClMV infection can decrease the attractiveness of white clover plants for fungus gnat females. This suggests that virus infections may contribute to protecting their hosts by decreasing herbivore infestation rates. Consequently, it is conceivable that viruses play a more beneficial role in plant–herbivore interactions than generally thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-444
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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