Chemical signals involved in plant-insect interactions

Chemical Ecology

Plants under attack by herbivores initiate the production and release of volatiles that are attractive to the natural enemies of the herbivores.  Aboveground these volatile signals can attract parasitic wasps and predators that attack and kill the herbivores. Belowground such signals are attractive to insect-killing nematodes. The signals are also perceived by neighboring plants, which may then mobilize their own defenses.  We aim to unravel the chemical and molecular mechanisms that are involved in these interactions, as well as understand their ecological consequences.  By studying cultivated plant and their wild ancestors we hope to develop methods to better exploit the natural defense signals for optimal crop protection.


Recent Publications

  • Multi-locus phylogenetic analyses uncover species boundaries and reveal the occurrence of two new entomopathogenic nematode species, Heterorhabditis ruandica n. sp. and Heterorhabditis zacatecana n. sp.
    Machado, Ricardo A. R.; Bhat, Aashaq Hussain; Abolafia, Joaquin; Muller, Arthur; Bruno, Pamela; Fallet, Patrick; Arce, Carla C. M.; Turlings, Ted C. J.; Bernal, Julio S.; Kajuga, Joelle; Waweru, Bancy; Toepfer, Stefan
    Journal Of Nematology, 10.21307/jofnem-2021-089, 2021
  • Whitefly hijacks a plant detoxification gene that neutralizes plant toxins
    Xia, Jixing; Guo, Zhaojiang; Yang, Zezhong; Han, Haolin; Wang, Shaoli; et al.
    Cell 10.1016/j.cell.2021.02.014  Published: APR 1 2021
  • Differential levels of fatty acid-amino acid conjugates in the oral secretions of lepidopteran larvae account for the differed profiles of volatiles produced by maize
    Ling, Xiaoyu; Gu, Shimin; Tian, Caihong; Guo, Huijuan; Degen, Thomas; et al.
    Pest Management Science  10.1002/ps.6417  Early Access: APR 2021
  • Streamlining leaf damage rating scales for the fall armyworm on maize
    Toepfer, Stefan; Fallet, Patrick; Kajuga, Joelle; Bazagwira, Didace; Mukundwa, Ishimwe Primitive; et al.
    Journal Of Pest Science, 10.1007/s10340-021-01359-2   Early Access: MAR 2021
  • Calcium-alginate beads as a formulation for the application of entomopathogenic nematodes to control rootworms
    Kim, Jinwon; Hiltpold, Ivan; Jaffuel, Geoffrey; Sbaiti, Ilham; Hibbard, Bruce E.; et al.
    Journal Of Pest Science, 10.1007/s10340-021-01349-4   FEB 2021
  • Bioturbation by endogeic earthworms facilitates entomopathogenic nematode movement toward herbivore-damaged maize roots
    Fattore, S; Xiao, ZG; Godschalx, AL; Roder, G; Turlings, TCJ; Le Bayon, RC; Rasmann, S
    Scientific Reports 10.1038/s41598-020-78307-0 DEC 4 2020
  • A receptor-like protein mediates plant immune responses to herbivore-associated molecular patterns
    Steinbrenner, Adam D.; Munoz-Amatriain, Maria; Chaparro, Antonio F.; Aguilar-Venegas, Jessica Montserrat; Lo, Sassoum; Okuda, Satohiro; Glauser, Gaetan; Dongiovanni, Julien; Shi, Da; Hall, Marlo; Crubaugh, Daniel; Holton, Nicholas; Zipfel, Cyril; Abagyan, Ruben; Turlings, Ted C. J.; Close, Timothy J.; Huffaker, Alisa; Schmelz, Eric A
    Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America 117(49): 31510-31518   DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2018415117   DEC 8 2020
  • Apparent inhibition of induced plant volatiles by a fungal pathogen prevents airborne communication between potato plants
    Moreira, X; Granjel, RR; de la Fuente, M; Fernandez-Conradi, P; Pasch, V; Soengas, P; Turlings, TCJ; Vazquez-Gonzalez, C; Abdala-Roberts, L; Rasmann, S
    Plant Cell And Environment 10.1111/pce.13961  DEC 2020
  • Effects of soil salinity on the expression of direct and indirect defences in wild cottonGossypium hirsutum
    Quijano-Medina, Teresa; Turlings, Ted C. J.; Sosenski, Paula; Grandi, Luca; Cervera, Jose C.; et al.
    Journal Of Ecology  DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13483  AUG 2020
  • Caterpillar-induced rice volatiles provide enemy-free space for the offspring of the brown planthopper
    Hu, Xiaoyun; Su, Shuangli; Liu, Qingsong; Jiao, Yaoyu; Peng, Yufa; et al.
    Elife  DOI: 10.7554/eLife.55421 Published: AUG 11 2020
  • Floral Odors Can Interfere With the Foraging Behavior of Parasitoids Searching for Hosts
    Desurmont, Gaylord A.; von Arx, Martin; Turlings, Ted C. J.; Schiestl, Florian P.
    Frontiers In Ecology And Evolution  DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2020.00148 Published: MAY 27 2020
  • Entomopathogenic nematodes from Mexico that can overcome the resistance mechanisms of the western corn rootworm
    Bruno, Pamela; Machado, Ricardo A. R.; Glauser, Gaetan; Kohler, Angela; Campos-Herrera, Raquel; et al.
    Scientific Reports 10(1), 10.1038/s41598-020-64945-x May 2020
  • Biological control of cabbage fly Delia radicum with entomopathogenic nematodes: Selecting the most effective nematode species and testing a novel application method
    Kapranas, Apostolos; Sbaiti, Ilham; Degen, Thomas; Turlings, Ted C. J.
    Biological Control  DOI: 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2020.104212 Published: MAY 2020
  • Distinct Roles of Cuticular Aldehydes as Pheromonal Cues in Two Cotesia Parasitoids
    Xu, Hao; Zhou, Guoxin; Dotterl, Stefan; Schaffler, Irmgard; Degen, Thomas; et al.
    Journal Of Chemical Ecology  DOI: 10.1007/s10886-019-01142-9  Published: FEB 2020
  • Encapsulated Entomopathogenic Nematodes Can Protect Maize Plants from Diabrotica balteata Larvae
    Jaffuel, Geoffrey; Sbaiti, Ilham; Turlings, Ted C. J.
    Insects,  11(1), DOI: 10.3390/insects11010027, JAN 2020
  • Spodoptera frugiperda Caterpillars Suppress Herbivore-Induced Volatile Emissions in Maize
    De Lange, Elvira S.; Laplanche, Diane; Guo, Huijuan; Xu, Wei; Vlimant, Michele; Erb, Matthias; Ton, Jurriaan; Turlings, Ted
    Journal Of Chemical Ecology,  DOI: 10.1007/s10886-020-01153-x, JAN 2020
  • Bottom-up control of geographic variation in insect herbivory on wild cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) by plant defenses and climate
    Abdala-Roberts, L; Quijano-Medina, T; Moreira, X; Vazquez-Gonzalez, C; Parra-Tabla, V; Teran, JCBMY; Grandi, L; Glauser, G; Turlings, TCJ; Benrey, B
    AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BOTANY, 106 (8):1059-1067; 10.1002/ajb2.1330 AUG 2019
Ted Turlings Uni Neuchatel

Prof. Dr. Ted Turlings
University of Neuchâtel
Institute of Biology
2000 Neuchâtel

Tel: +41 (0)32 718 31 58

Research topics

  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Induced plant defenses
  • Evolutionary ecology of tritrophic interactions
  • Assessment of transgenic crops



  • Crop protection 
  • Applied entomology 
  • Agroecology
  • Metabolomics
  • Biodiversity