This was one of two internationally coauthored pieces we did on the chemical ecology of the invasive species Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Even though it's almost a decade later, I am deeply appreciative of the collaboration with Tina Frisch and the many other co-authors we had on this piece. In this piece, we worked on figuring out which glucosides were found in garlic mustard, and what they would do to Pieris rapae caterpillars.
Specialized metabolites in plants influence their interactions with other species, including herbivorous insects, which may adapt to tolerate defensive phytochemicals. The chemical arsenal of Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, Brassicaceae) includes the glucosinolate sinigrin and alliarinoside, a hydroxynitrile glucoside with defensive properties to glucosinolate-adapted specialists.
To further our understanding of the chemical ecology of A. petiolata, which is spreading invasively in North America, we investigated the metabolite profile and here report a novel natural product, petiolatamide, which is structurally related to sinigrin. In an extensive study of North American populations of A. petiolata, we demonstrate that genetic population differences as well as developmental regulation contribute to variation in the leaf content of petiolatamide, alliarinoside, sinigrin, and a related glycoside.
We furthermore demonstrate widely different metabolic fates of these metabolites after ingestion in the glucosinolate-adapted herbivore Pieris rapae, ranging from simple passage over metabolic conversion to sequestration. The differences in metabolic fate were influenced by plant β-glucosidases, insect-mediated degradation, and the specificity of the larval gut transport system mediating sequestration.