Terpenoids in plant and arbuscular mycorrhiza-reinforced defence against herbivorous insects

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Plants, though sessile, employ various strategies to defend themselves against herbivorous insects and convey signals of an impending herbivore attack to other plant(s). Strategies include the production of volatiles that include terpenoids and the formation of symbiotic associations with fungi, such as arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM). This constitutes a two-pronged above-ground/below-ground attack-defence strategy against insect herbivores.


Terpenoids represent an important constituent of herbivore-induced plant volatiles that deter herbivores and/or attract their predators. Terpenoids serve as airborne signals that can induce defence responses in systemic undamaged parts of the plant and also prime defence responses in neighbouring plants. Colonization of roots by AM fungi is known to influence secondary metabolism in plants; this includes alteration of the concentration and composition of terpenoids, which can boost both direct and indirect plant defence against herbivorous insects. Enhanced nutrient uptake facilitated by AM, changes in plant morphology and physiology and increased transcription levels of certain genes involved in the terpenoid biosynthesis pathway result in alterations in plant terpenoid profiles. The common mycorrhizal networks of external hyphae have added a dimension to the two-pronged plant defence strategy. These act as conduits to transfer defence signals and terpenoids.


Improved understanding of the roles of terpenoids in plant and AM defences against herbivory and of interplant signalling in natural communities has significant implications for sustainable management of pests in agricultural ecosystems.

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