Stress Related Emissions of Norway Spruce Plants

University dissertation from Stockholm : Kemi

Abstract: The interactions between plants and insects are mediated by volatile molecules. Plants respond to stress by biosynthesis of chemical substances which can deter invading insects or pathogens. Some of these substances are volatile and are emitted to the surroundings and may attract or repel insects. Information about the susceptibility of individual plants to infestation, their volatile emissions and chemical defence is of interest, for example in selecting plants for tree breeding programs.This research was focused on finding volatile chemical markers of resistance in Norway spruce plants that do influence insects associated to conifers. Collection of headspace volatiles by SPME followed by separation and identification with GC-MS is effective in investigating biological systems with a minimum of disturbance. This method has here been used to investigate Norway spruce plants of different ages and stress conditions as well as trapping semiochemicals like nepetalactone emitted by the spruce shoot aphids. It was even possible to analyse the emission of single needles in vivo and obtain a chemical pattern of the site of the stress reaction. Seedlings of different ages showed differences in chemical composition of emitted volatiles, with the pine weevil repellent (S)-(-)-limonene as one of the main compounds. Wounded phloem of conventional plants emitted high amounts of monoterpenes while the phloem of mini plants emitted (3Z)-hexenal and (3Z)-hexen-1-ol.Norway spruce plants did respond to different stress elicitors with similar response, regardless of their genetic origin. The emissions from stressed Norway spruce plants mainly consist of (E)-β-farnesene, (E,E)-α-farnesene, (E)-α-bisabolene, (R)-(-)-linalool and methyl salicylate. Emissions from live spruce shoot aphids were detected during autumn periods, and a method to separate and identify the four diastereomers of nepetalactone by GC-MS and characteristic m/z-fragments was accomplished.

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