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Bräcker, Lasse B.; Gong, Xiaoyun; Schmid, Christian; Dawid, Corinna; Ulrich, Detlef; Tuyen, Phung; Leonhard, Alexandra; Ainsworth, Julia; Olbricht, Klaus; Parniske, Martin and Gompel, Nicolas (2020): A strawberry accession with elevated methyl anthranilate fruit concentration is naturally resistant to the pest fly Drosophila suzukii.
In: PLOS One 15(6), e0234040 [PDF, 1MB]


During the past decade, Drosophila suzukii has established itself as a global invasive fruit pest, enabled by its ability to lay eggs into fresh, ripening fruit. In a previous study, we investigated the impact of different strawberry accessions on the development of D. suzukii eggs, in the search of natural resistance. We identified several accessions that significantly reduced adult fly emergence from infested fruit. In the present study, we aimed at understanding the chemical basis of this effect. We first noted that one of the more resistant accessions showed an unusual enrichment of methyl anthranilate within its fruit, prompting us to investigate this fruit compound as a possible cause limiting fly development. We found that methyl anthranilate alone triggers embryo lethality in a concentration-dependent manner, unlike another comparable organic fruit compound. We also showed that a chemical fraction of the resistant strawberry accession that contains methyl anthranilate carries some activity toward the egg hatching rate. Surprisingly, in spite of the lethal effect of this compound to their eggs, adult females are not only attracted to methyl anthranilate at certain concentrations, but they also display a concentration-dependent preference to lay on substrates enriched in methyl anthranilate. This study demonstrates that methyl anthranilate is a potent agonist molecule against D. suzukii egg development. Its elevated concentration in a specific strawberry accession proven to reduce the fly development may explain, at least in part the fruit resistance. It further illustrates how a single, natural compound, non-toxic to humans could be exploited for biological control of a pest species.

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