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Current research (PhD thesis):
How do flea beetles overcome the mustard-oil bomb?

Crucifer plants (e.g. horseradish, mustard, and Arabidopsis thaliana) defend themselves against herbivores with an activated two-component defense system consisting of glucosinolates and the enzyme myrosinase. Upon tissue damage, glucosinolates are hydrolyzed to unstable aglycons which spontaneously rearrange to highly reactive isothiocyanates. Nevertheless, several herbivores as for example Phyllotreta spp. are specialized to feed on glucosinolate-containing plants and are able to selectively sequester and store intact glucosinolates from food plants in their bodies. However, it is unknown how these beetles overcome plant myrosinase activity during feeding to sequester intact glucosinolates.

Furtheron, Phyllotreta spp. possess an endogenous beetle myrosinase indicating that the glucosinolate-myrosinase system within these beetles is used for their own defense against predators. With this strategy they would exploit the host plant defense and use it for their own benefit. How both components are stored in the beetle to prevent self-intoxication and whether this system is indeed used by the insect to defend itself against predators is unknown so far.
last updated on 2019-01-15