Gary W. Felton, Ph.D.

  • Professor and Department Head of Entomology
Gary W. Felton, Ph.D.
501 Ag Sciences & Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802


  1. B.S., University of California, Irvine, 1975
  2. M.S., University of Kentucky, 1983
  3. Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 1988

Lab Website

Current Graduate Students:

Seung Ho Chung
Flor Edith Acevedo
Loren Rivera-Vega

Visiting Students:

Fang Liu

Postdoctoral Scholars:

María Gloria Estrada Hernández
Joe Louis

Research Support Assistant (Lab Manager):

Michelle Peiffer


Donglan Tian, PhD August 2012, currently a Research Scientist at Bayer Crop Science, Davis, CA
Jinwon Kim, PhD December 2012, currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Department Focus Areas:

Chemical ecology


Chemical ecology; Insect-plant interactions; induced plant defenses, plant perception of herbivores

Research Programs and Interests:

My research program uses molecular, proteomic and physiological approaches to investigate insect-plant interactions. My main interests are investigating the counter measures herbivores use in overcoming host plant defenses. Particular interest is on the role of herbivore salivary signals in suppressing the induced defenses of host plants.

The role of saliva of blood feeding arthropods in suppressing the defenses of their vertebrate hosts has been comparatively well studied; however, very little is known about how the saliva of herbivores may interfere with plant defensive responses. Our projects focus primarily on the saliva of caterpillars. Recent findings indicate that saliva is enriched with an array of molecules that function in defense against microbial infection, digestion of plant tissues, and in suppressing induced defenses of plants. We employ a variety of surgical and genetic approaches (e.g., RNA interference) to examine function(s) of saliva.

Full list of Publications at Google Scholar:

Selected Publications:

Johnson, KS., Felton, GW. 2001. Plant phenolics as dietary antioxidants for insects: a test with genetically modified tobacco. J. Chem.Ecol. 27: 2579-2597.

Musser, R, Hum-Musser, S, Eichenseer, H, Peiffer, M, Ervin, G, Murphy, B, Felton, GW. 2002. Caterpillar saliva beats plant defences: a new weapon emerges in the evolutionary arms race between plants and herbivores. Nature 416:599-600.

Peiffer, M, Felton GW. 2005. The host plant as a factor in the synthesis and secretion of salivary glucose oxidase in larval Helicoverpa zea . Arch Insect Biochem Physiol 58: 106-13.

Felton GW. 2005. Indigestion is a plant's best defense. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 102(52):18771-18772.

Delphia CM, Mescher MC, Felton G, De Moraes CM. 2006. The role of insect-derived cues in eliciting indirect plant defenses in tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum. Plant Signaling and Behavior 1:243-250.

Felton GW, Tumlinson JH. 2008. Plant-insect dialogs: complex interactions at the plant-insect interface. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 11(4):457-463.

Peiffer M, Felton GW. 2009. Do caterpillars secrete "oral secretions"? Journal of Chemical Ecology 35(3):326-335.

Peiffer M, Tooker JF, Luthe DS, Felton GW. 2009. Plants on early alert: glandular trichomes as sensors for insect herbivores. New Phytologist 184(3):644-656.

Eichenseer H, Mathews MC, Powell JS, Felton GW. 2010. Survey of a salivary effector in caterpillars: glucose oxidase variation and correlation with host range. Journal of Chemical Ecology 36(8):885-897.

Tooker JF, Peiffer M, Luthe DS, Felton GW. 2010. Trichomes as sensors: Detecting activity on the leaf surface. Plant Signal Behav 5(1):73-75.

Kim J, Quaghebeur H, Felton GW. 2011. Reiterative and interruptive signaling in induced plant resistance to chewing insects. Phytochemistry 72:1624-1634.

Chung SH, Felton GW. 2011. Specificity of induced resistance in tomato against specialist Lepidopteran and Coleopteran species. Journal of Chemical Ecology 37(4):378-386.

Leroy PD, Sabri A, Heuskin S, Thonart P, Lognay G, Verheggen FJ, Francis F, Brostaux Y, Felton GW, Haubruge E. 2011. Microorganisms from aphid honeydew attract and enhance the efficacy of natural enemies. Nature Communications 2:Article number:348.

Rasmann S, De Vos M, Casteel CL, Tian D, Halitschke R, Sun JY, Agrawal AA, Felton GW, Jander G. 2012. Herbivory in the previous generation primes plants for enhanced insect resistance. Plant Physiology 158:854-863.

Research Interests

Chemical Ecology