Synergism between myristicin and xanthotoxin, a naturally cooccurring plant toxicant

May R Berenbaum, Jonathan J. Neal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myristicin, a methylenedioxyphenyl (MDP)-containing phenylpropene constituent of the leaves of many plants in the family Umbelliferae, is a highly effective Synergist of the cooccurring furanocoumarin xanthotoxin. As little as 0.10 % in an artificial diet can increase the toxicity of xanthotoxin to Heliothis zea (Lepidotera: Noctuidae) fivefold. In addition to increasing the proportion of caterpillars dying at a given xanthotoxin concentration, myristicin also increases the rate at which they die and increases the time to molt of surviving larvae. That there was no increase in the deterrency of xanthotoxin in the presence of myristicin suggests that the mechanism of synergism is not behaviorial but rather is biochemical, via MDP competitive inhibition of microsomal mixed function oxidases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1358
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1985


  • Heliothis zea
  • Lepidoptera
  • Methylenedioxyphenyl compounds
  • Noctuidae
  • Umbelliferae
  • furanocoumarins
  • insect-plant interaction
  • myristicin
  • piperonyl butoxide
  • synergism
  • xanthotoxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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