Asymmetry in herbivore effector responses: caterpillar frass effectors reduce performance of a subsequent herbivore.
Multiple species of phytophagous insects may co-occur on a plant and while plants can defend themselves from insect herbivory, plant responses to damage by different species and feeding guilds of insects may be asymmetric. Plants can trigger specific responses to elicitors/effectors in insect secretions altering herbivore performance. Recently, maize chitinases present in fall armyworm (FAW, Spodoptera frugiperda) frass were shown to act as effectors suppressing caterpillar-induced defenses in maize while increasing caterpillar performance. We investigated the effect of frass chitinase-mediated suppression of herbivore defenses in maize on the performance and preference of a subsequent insect herbivore from a different feeding guild, corn leaf aphid (Rhopalosiphum maidis). Aphid performance was highest on plants with FAW damage without frass chitinases compared to damaged plants with frass chitinases or undamaged plants. Plant exposure to frass chitinases post FAW damage also altered the production of herbivore-induced volatile compounds compared to damaged, buffer-treated plants. However, aphid preference to damaged, frass chitinase-treated plants was not different from damaged, buffer-treated plants or undamaged plants. This study suggests that frass effector-mediated alteration of plant defenses affects insect herbivores asymmetrically; while it enhances the performance of caterpillars, it suppresses the performance of subsequent herbivores from a different feeding guild.