A novel indirect defence in Brassicaceae: structure and function of extrafloral nectaries in Brassica juncea.

Mathur, V.; Wagenaar, R.; Caissard, J.C.; Reddy, A.S.; Vet, L.E.M.; Cortesero, A.M.; Dam, N.M. van


While nectaries are commonly found in flowers, some plants also form extrafloral nectaries on stems or leaves. For the first time in the family Brassicaceae, here we report extrafloral nectaries in Brassica juncea. The extrafloral nectar (EFN) was secreted from previously amorphic sites on stems, flowering stalks and leaf axils from the onset of flowering until silique formation. Transverse sections at the point of nectar secretion revealed a pocket-like structure whose opening was surrounded by modified stomatal guard cells. The EFN droplets were viscous and up to 50% of the total weight was sugars, 97% of which was sucrose in the five varieties of B. juncea examined. Threonine, glutamine, arginine and glutamate were the most abundant amino acids. EFN droplets also contained glucosinolates, mainly gluconapin and sinigrin. Nectar secretion was increased when the plants were damaged by chewing above- and belowground herbivores and sap-sucking aphids. Parasitoids of each herbivore species were tested for their preference, of which three parasitoids preferred EFN and sucrose solutions over water. Moreover, the survival and fecundity of parasitoids were positively affected by feeding on EFN. We conclude that EFN production in B. juncea may contribute to the indirect defence of this plant species.