Identification of an insect-produced olfactory cue that primes plant defenses.
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It is increasingly clear that plants perceive and respond to olfactory cues. Yet, knowledge about the specificity and sensitivity of such perception remains limited. We previously documented priming of anti-herbivore defenses in tall goldenrod plants (Solidago altissima) by volatile emissions from a specialist herbivore, the goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis). Here, we explore the specific chemical cues mediating this interaction. We report that E,S-conophthorin, the most abundant component of the emission of male flies, elicits a priming response equivalent to that observed for the overall blend. Furthermore, while the strength of priming is dose dependent, plants respond even to very low concentrations of E,S-conophthorin relative to typical fly emissions. Evaluation of other blend components yields results consistent with the hypothesis that priming in this interaction is mediated by a single compound. These findings provide insights into the perceptual capabilities underlying plant defense priming in response to olfactory cues.Plants are able to prime anti-herbivore defenses in response to olfactory cues of insect pests. Here, Helms et al. identify the insect pheromone E,S-conophthorin produced by the goldenrod gall fly as the specific chemical component that elicits this priming response in goldenrod plants.