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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Prove that Nicotine Ruins Appetite of Insects and Herbivorous Mammals

July 6, 2016

Production of nicotine in coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) is controlled by plant hormones called jasmonates. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Washington State University have recently discovered the importance of jasmonate-dependent nicotine production in the survival of tobacco.

Researchers revealed that jasmonate-deficiency strongly increases attacks from both insects and mammals based on experiments with genetically modified tobacco plants incapable of producing jasmonates. Since herbivores prefer to feed on jasmonate-deficient plants, scientists hypothesized that nicotine affects the feeding preferences of mammals.

Scientists made food pellets from both wildtype and jasmonate-deficient tobacco plants and fed them to rabbits. Rabbits consumed majority of the jasmonate-deficient while wildtype pellets were barely consumed. The hypothesis was then confirmed in another experiment where jasmonate-deficient pellets, with added nicotine, were refused by the rabbits.

For more information, read the article on the Max Planck Gesellschaft website.