Lutein sequestration and furanocoumarin metabolism in parsnip webworms under different ultraviolet light regimes in the montane west

Mark J. Carroll, May R. Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both biotic and abiotic selection pressures can contribute to geographic variation in allelochemical production in plants. We examined furanocoumarin production in western North American populations of Heracleum lanatum and Pastinaca sativa that, at different latitudes and altitudes, experience different ultraviolet (UV) light regimes. Total furano-coumarins and linear furanocoumarins of fruits were negatively correlated with UV irradiance, whereas amounts of angular furanocoumarins, which are generally less phototoxic, were not. Another factor potentially influencing furanocoumarin production is the presence of the parsnip webworm Depressaria pastinacella, (Lepidoptera: Oecophoridae), an herbivore that feeds on reproductive structures of both plant species. These insects sequester lutein from their host plants; this carotenoid acts to ameliorate furanocoumarin toxicity. Although the concentration of lutein in fruits did not vary with UV irradiance, lutein sequestration by sixth instars was positively correlated with UV irradiance. Webworm populations are variably infested with the polyembryonic webworm parasitoid Copidosoma sosares Walker (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae). H. lanatum fruits from populations with webworms parasitized by C. sosares had lower concentrations of furanocoumarins, with the exception of sphondin, than fruits from plants infested with webworms free from parasitism. Lower levels of these furanocoumarins may reduce negative effects on the fitness of this parasitoid. In contrast with the variation in furanocoumarin content, the ability of webworms to metabolize furanocoumarins by cytochrome P450 did not differ significantly among populations from New Mexico to Alberta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-305
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Altitude
  • Carotenoid
  • Copidosoma sosares
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Depressaria pastinacella
  • Furanocoumarin
  • Geographic mosaic
  • Heracleum lanatum
  • Lutein
  • Pastinaca sativa
  • Tritrophic interaction
  • Ultraviolet light

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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