Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Alluring Scents – Insights into the evolution of sex pheromones from a parasitic wasp

14.02.2013
Although it is long known that sex pheromones play an important role in attracting and selecting the right mating partner, we know surprisingly little about the evolution and molecular basis of these alluring scents.
A German-American research team from the Arizona State University (USA), the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig Bonn , the University of Regensburg, and the Technical University Darmstadt used the parasitic wasp genus Nasonia to gain new insights into the process sex pheromone evolution. The result of this long lasting cooperation has now been published in Nature.

Most insects rely on their sense of smell when they seek a mating partner. They often use species specific sex pheromones to attract a suitable partner, i.e. a partner of the same species and different sex. Many sex pheromones are blends of multiple chemical components and the specific mixture/recipe of all components generates a unique and species specific blend. So far researchers assumed that individuals who used a blend that is even slightly different from their species specific blend are at a severe disadvantage compared to individuals who use the “traditional” blend in attracting mating partners.
For that reason theory predicts that the composition of sex pheromones should be extremely stable over long periods of time. Hence, scientists are puzzled by the enormous diversity of sex pheromones found today and struggle to understand how this diversity has evolved. Additionally, so far very little is known about the genetic mechanisms and molecular changes that accompany changes in sex pheromone composition.

To answer both of these questions, what is the genetic basis of sex pheromone differences and how do they evolve, researchers in Germany and USA studied two species of the parasitoid wasp genus Nasonia. Males of these species are only 2-5 mm long and attract females with a sex pheromone produced in their hindgut. The researchers discovered that the sex pheromones of all known Nasonia species are composed of two components. The only exeption is N. vitripennis which uses a novel third component.

The researchers identified the genes responsible for the production of the third pheromone component in N. vitripennis. These genes code for alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes. “These enzymes catalyze the structural reorganization of an already present sex pheromone component resulting in the generation of the third and novel sex pheromone component in N. vitripennis” explained Dr. Oliver Niehuis, director of the Molecular Laboratory of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn. N. vitripennis males could no longer produce the novel and unique sex pheromone component once the researchers knocked down the alcohol dehydrogenase genes via dsRNAi.

Behavioral tests revealed that females of N. vitripennis do not react, if only the new component is offered. So what is the function of the novel component? “Only in combination with the other two (ancestral) components can females of N. vitripennis distinguish between conspecific males and males from sympatrically occurring closely related species” explains Prof. Dr. Joachim Ruther from the University of Regensburg. Females from the closely related and sympatric species Nasonia giraulti do not distinguish between the novel and ancestral sex pheromone with three and two components, respectively. Hence, the researchers concluded that initially females of N. vitripennis didn’t react to the third component when it first evolved. However, at some time in the evolutionary history of N. vitripennis the olfactory system of N. vitripennis adapted to the novel component and it is now an integral and distinguishing feature of the species specific sex pheromone of N. vitripennis males.

This study gives new insights into the evolution of sex pheromones and chemical communication in general. It is one of the first demonstrations how new sex pheromones can evolve by simple modifications of already existing components without losing the efficiency in the information content, i.e. males with the new scent are still attractive for mates used to the old scent.

Link to the original publication:

www: http://www.nature.com
DOI: 10.1038/nature11838

Ansprechpartner für Medienvertreter:

Dr. Oliver Niehuis
Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig
Adenauerallee 160
Tel.: 0228 9122-356
Email: o.niehuis.zfmk@uni-bonn.de

Contact in the USA;

Juergen Gadau
Arizona State University
School of Life Sciences
Office: 480-965-2349
e-mail: jgadau@asu.edu

or

Joshua Gibson
Arizona State University
School of Life Sciences
E-mail: jdgibson@asu.edu

Das Zoologische Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) is part of the Leibniz Association, a network of 86 scientifically, legally and economically independent research institutes and scientific service facilities. Leibniz Institutes perform strategic- and thematically-oriented research and offer scientific service of national significance while striving to find scientific solutions for major social challenges.

Sabine Heine | idw
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu
http://www.nature.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>