Herbivore Natural Enemies

Plant secondary metabolites do not only affect herbivores, but also mediate interactions with herbivore natural enemies. The resulting tritrophic interactions are important determinants of food webs and community in natural and agricultural systems. We are interested in understanding how plant secondary metabolites affect herbivore natural enemies in specialized systems where herbivores sequester plant toxins. In particular, we study how benzoxazinoid sequestration by the western corn rootworm Diabrotica virgifera affects entomopathogenic nematodes and their insect-killing symbiotic bacteria. Interactions are functionally dissected through a combination of microbiology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry and bioassays.

Project leader: Dr. Ricardo Machado


Key publications

  1. Robert C.A.M, Zhang X., Machado R.A.R., Schirmer S., Lori M., Mateo P., Erb M., Gershenzon J. Sequestration and activation of plant toxins protect the western corn rootworm from enemies at multiple trophic levels. eLife, 6:e29307.