Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta

21.04.2017

The tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta is an important pollinator of the wild tobacco species Nicotiana attenuata; yet hungry larvae hatch from the eggs these moths lay on the leaves.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, has described a gene in Nicotiana attenuata which enables the plant to solve the dilemma that arises when a pollinator is also a dangerous herbivore. The gene NaTPS38 regulates the production of the volatile compound (E)-α-bergamotene. At night, the tobacco flowers produce this odor which is attractive to adult tobacco hawkmoths, while during the day, the tobacco leaves emit the compound to lure predatory bugs to feed on Manduca sexta larvae and eggs. (Current Biology, April 20, 2017, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.017)


During the night, a tobacco hawkmoth (Manduca sexta) uses its proboscis to suck nectar from a flower of the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata.

Danny Kessler / Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology


A predatory Geocoris bug attacks a freshly hatched tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) during the day.

André Kessler / Cornell University

Flowering plants depend on pollen vectors in order to reproduce. Yet a plant has a problem if a pollinator, which is attracted by the odors of sweet flowers, lays its eggs on the plant after pollination is complete, and from these eggs hatch voracious caterpillars ready to attack the tasty leaves with their enormous appetite.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology have discovered a gene in the wild tobacco species Nicotiana attenuata called NaTPS38, which regulates the production of an aromatic compound, the sesquiterpene (E)-α-bergamotene, in both flowers and leaves.

“We observed that Nicotiana attenuata plants emit (E)-α-bergamotene in flowers at night to lure Manduca sexta moths as pollinators. The compound makes a moth keep its proboscis longer in a flower and pollination success is increased. The emission of the same compound in leaves attacked by Manduca sexta larvae during the day, however, attracts the predators of the larvae and acts as an indirect defense,” first author Wenwu Zhou summarizes.

In this way, the tissue-specific emission of one compound helps the wild tobacco plants to interact most advantageously with Manduca sexta.

The study involved researchers from four different groups. Originally, Wenwu Zhou and project leader Shuqing Xu from the Department of Molecular Ecology wanted to study the genetic basis of (E)-α-bergamotene emission after herbivory. They found that the terpene synthase NaTPS38 was activated when insects attacked tobacco plants. Researchers from the Department of Biochemistry were able to confirm that NaTPS38 is indeed involved in the production of (E)-α-bergamotene.

When the researchers examined the expression of NaTPS38 in different parts of the tobacco plants, they found to their surprise that the gene was also highly expressed in the flowers. However, the ecological function of (E)-α-bergamotene emission in flowers was still unclear. The fact that floral (E)-α-bergamotene was mainly emitted at night led to the hypothesis that the compound interacts with nocturnal pollinators, especially Manduca sexta moths.

Further analyses in the Department of Neuroethology demonstrated that the purified (E)-α-bergamotene activated neural receptors at the tip of the proboscis of Manduca sexta moths. Tent experiments with tobacco plants and hawkmoths performed by researchers from the Department of Molecular Ecology revealed that pollination success was increased when the flowers emitted high amounts of (E)-α-bergamotene.

Although the gene NaTPS38 is very similar to a monoterpene synthase, it is nevertheless responsible for the production of the sesquiterpene (E)-α-bergamotene. Usually a gene from the sesquiterpene synthase family regulates the production of such a compound, but in this case, it appears that the gene NaTPS38 violated this general rule.

Analyzing the function and evolutionary history of NaTPS38 revealed that this gene originated from a duplication of a monoterpene synthase which then evolved the ability to produce (E)-α-bergamotene, a sesquiterpene compound. This unique evolutionary process likely occurred before the divergence of different Solanaceae species, the plant family which includes tobacco.

The fact that a single gene in Nicotiana attenuata mediates both pollination and defense by producing tissue-specific (E)-α-bergamotene is an example of a phenomenon called ecological pleiotropy.

“Accumulating evidence suggests that ecological pleiotropy may be quite common in plants. Our work demonstrates that interactions between different ecological factors, such as pollinators and herbivores, are important for plant evolution. However, we know little about the extent to which these interactions can affect the plant’s adaptation to its environment,” explains Shuqing Xu. The scientists are currently developing a new research program that aims to address this question systematically. [AO/KG]


Original Publication:
Zhou, W., Kügler A., McGale, E., Haverkamp, A., Knaden, M., Guo, H., Beran, F., Yon, F., Li, R., Lackus, N., Köllner, T. G., Bing, J., Schuman, M. C., Hansson, B. S., Kessler, D., Baldwin, I. T., Xu, S. (2017). Tissue-specific emission of (E)-α-bergamotene helps resolve the dilemma when pollinators are also herbivores. Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.017
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.017

Further Information:
Dr. Shuqing Xu, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Straße 8, 07745 Jena, Germany, +49 3641 57-1122, E-Mail sxu@ice.mpg.de

Contact and Media Requests:
Angela Overmeyer M.A., Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07743 Jena, +49 3641 57-2110, E-Mail overmeyer@ice.mpg.de

Download high-resolution images via http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/downloads2017.html

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/index.php?id=1370 Press release on the homepage of the MPI for Chemical Ecology

Angela Overmeyer | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Better thermal conductivity by adjusting the arrangement of atoms

Adjusting the thermal conductivity of materials is one of the challenges nanoscience is currently facing. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Spain, researchers from the University of Basel have shown that the atomic vibrations that determine heat generation in nanowires can be controlled through the arrangement of atoms alone. The scientists will publish the results shortly in the journal Nano Letters.

In the electronics and computer industry, components are becoming ever smaller and more powerful. However, there are problems with the heat generation. It is...

Im Focus: First-ever visualizations of electrical gating effects on electronic structure

Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.

Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...

Im Focus: Megakaryocytes act as „bouncers“ restraining cell migration in the bone marrow

Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.

Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...

Im Focus: Artificial neural network resolves puzzles from condensed matter physics: Which is the perfect quantum theory?

For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.

Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...

Im Focus: Extremely hard yet metallically conductive: Bayreuth researchers develop novel material with high-tech prospects

An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".

The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Heat flow through single molecules detected

19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Heat transport through single molecules

19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Welcome Committee for Comets

19.07.2019 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>