Under natural conditions, plants have to cope with a multitude of stresses, two of those are light-stress and herbivory. Plants have evolved several mechanisms to avoid the damage done by strong and fluctuating light and one important photoprotection mechanism is the qE-type of non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) where the PsbS protein is involved. We have compared
Arabidopsis thaliana wild type and two "photoprotection genotypes", npq4 and oePsbS that, respectively, lack and overexpress PsbS. In dual-choice feeding experiments on field-grown plants with a specialist (Plutella xylostella) and a generalist (Spodoptera littoralis) insect herbivore, both herbivores preferred the plants with higher expression of PsbS. Also both herbivores survived equally well on the different genotypes but for oviposition, female adults of Plutella xylostella preferred plants with lower expression of PsbS. No difference in the amount and composition of the ten most prominent glucosinolates — the most important substances in the Arabidopsis chemical warfare against herbivores — were found between the genotypes. When leaves of the three genotypes, after transfer from a growth chamber to the field, were profiled for changes in composition of metabolites using GC-MS, we found significant differences in metabolite composition. This suggests that differences in herbivore preferences were rather a consequence of changes in the primary metabolism of the plant rather than differences in the composition of typical "defence compounds". In npq4, superoxide accumulated under high light conditions and is likely to directly, or indirectly after dismutation to H2O2, trigger the metabolic change.