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Toxins 2012, 4(4), 228-243; doi:10.3390/toxins4040228
Review

Plant Insecticidal Toxins in Ecological Networks

1
,
2
 and
3,*
1 Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Community Ecology Unit, via Belsoggiorno 22, 6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland 2 Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine UMR CNRS 5553 Université de Savoie F-73376, Le Bourget-du-lac, France 3 Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine UMR CNRS 5553 Université Joseph Fourier B.P.53, 38041 Grenoble CEDEX 9, France
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 March 2012 / Revised: 21 March 2012 / Accepted: 26 March 2012 / Published: 10 April 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insecticidal Toxins)
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Abstract

Plant secondary metabolites play a key role in plant-insect interactions, whether constitutive or induced, C- or N-based. Anti-herbivore defences against insects can act as repellents, deterrents, growth inhibitors or cause direct mortality. In turn, insects have evolved a variety of strategies to act against plant toxins, e.g., avoidance, excretion, sequestration and degradation of the toxin, eventually leading to a co-evolutionary arms race between insects and plants and to co-diversification. Anti-herbivore defences also negatively impact mutualistic partners, possibly leading to an ecological cost of toxin production. However, in other cases toxins can also be used by plants involved in mutualistic interactions to exclude inadequate partners and to modify the cost/benefit ratio of mutualism to their advantage. When considering the whole community, toxins have an effect at many trophic levels. Aposematic insects sequester toxins to defend themselves against predators. Depending on the ecological context, toxins can either increase insects’ vulnerability to parasitoids and entomopathogens or protect them, eventually leading to self-medication. We conclude that studying the community-level impacts of plant toxins can provide new insights into the synthesis between community and evolutionary ecology.
Keywords: secondary metabolism; repellent; antagonism; mutualism; pollination; coevolution; evolutionary arms race; inter-guild interactions; predators; symbionts; toxic nectar; multitrophic interactions secondary metabolism; repellent; antagonism; mutualism; pollination; coevolution; evolutionary arms race; inter-guild interactions; predators; symbionts; toxic nectar; multitrophic interactions
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ibanez, S.; Gallet, C.; Després, L. Plant Insecticidal Toxins in Ecological Networks. Toxins 2012, 4, 228-243.

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