University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Insects can serve as important vectors of plant pathogens, especially viruses. Insect feeding on plants causes the systemic release of a wide range of plant volatile compounds that can serve as an indirect plant defense by attracting natural enemies of the herbivorous insect. Previous work suggests that the Mexican bean beetle (Epilachna varivestis) prefers to feed on plants infected by either of two viruses that it is known to transmit: Southern bean mosaic virus (SBMV) or Bean pod mottle virus (BPMV). A possible explanation for the preferred feeding on virus-infected tissues is that the beetles are attracted by volatile signals released from leaves. The purpose of this work was to determine whether volatile compounds from virus-infected plants are released differentially from those emitted by uninfected plants. To test the hypothesis, common bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris cv. Black Valentine) were inoculated with either BPMV, SBMV, or a mixture of both viruses, and infected plants were compared to uninfected plants. An Ouchterlony assay was used with SBMVand BPMV-specific antisera to confirm the presence of virus in inoculated plants. RNA blot analysis was performed on tissue from each plant and indicated that a well-characterized defense gene, encoding phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL), was not induced in systemic tissue following virus infection. Plant volatiles were collected—and analyzed via gas chromatography (GC)—from plants that were either undamaged or beetle-damaged. In undamaged plants, there were no measurable differences in profiles or quantities of compounds released by uninfected and virus-infected plants. After Mexican bean beetles were allowed to feed on plants for 48 h, injured plants released several compounds that were not released from undamaged plants. Lower quantities of volatile compounds were released from virus-infected plants suggesting that enhanced release of plant-derived volatile organic compounds is not the cause for attraction of Mexican bean beetles to virus-infected plants.