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Comparative sex pherome biosynthesis inThaumetopoea pityocampaandT. processionea: a rationale for the phenotypic variation in the sex pherome within the GenusThaumetopoea

Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0965-1748(02)00186-8
  • Alkynes
  • Biosynthesis
  • Dienes
  • Enynes
  • Fatty Acids
  • Sex Pheromones
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


Abstract The female sex pheromones of the Mediterranean processionary moths ( Thaumetopoea sp.) are conjugated dienes or enynes of 16 carbon atoms with the unsaturations located at C11 and C13. To investigate the biochemical basis of this phenotypic variation, the biosynthetic pathway of T. processionea sex pheromone, a diene acetate, has been elucidated and compared to that reported for the enyne-producing species T. pityocampa. Mass labeling experiments showed that T. processionea sex pheromone is biosynthesized from palmitic acid, by subsequent ( Z)-11 and ( Z)-13 desaturations and final reduction and acetylation. The Pheromone Biosynthesis Activating Neuropeptide (PBAN) activates this biosynthetic pathway downstream of the dienoate intermediate. When either 11-hexadecynoic acid or ( Z)-13-hexadecen-11-ynoic acid were administered to T. processionea, this species was able to produce the enyne sex pheromone of T. pityocampa upon PBAN stimulation. In contrast, T. pityocampa does not produce either 11-hexadecynyl acetate or ( Z, Z)-11,13-hexadecadienyl acetate, despite having the corresponding precursors in the pheromone gland. However, both acetates are detected after administration of the corresponding alcohols. These overall results suggest that the absence of Δ 11 acetylenase and the existence of an enynoate specific reductase in the diene and enyne-producing Thaumetopeae, respectively, account for the different sex pheromones produced by the two groups.

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