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 Water world
20.11.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis

nachricht Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity
20.11.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>