, Volume 27, Issue 12, pp 2397-2423

Male-Specific Sesquiterpenes from Phyllotreta and Aphthona Flea Beetles

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Abstract

It was previously reported that males of the crucifer flea beetle, Phyllotreta cruciferae, feeding on host foliage are attractive to both males and females in the field. Based on this evidence for an aggregation pheromone, volatiles were collected from male and female P. cruciferae feeding on cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and analyzed. For comparison, volatiles were also collected from males and females of three other flea beetle species, Aphthona flava, A. czwalinae, and A. cyparissiae, all feeding on their host, leafy spurge foliage (Euphorbia esula). Six male-specific compounds were isolated from P. cruciferae, and the same compounds plus two additional ones were isolated from males of Aphthona flava, A. czwalinae, and A. cyparissiae. The blends of compounds were relatively consistent within species, but there were characteristic differences between species. Compound structures were studied by mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, UV spectroscopy, polarimetry, chiral and achiral gas chromatography, molecular modeling, and microchemical tests. Three of the compounds were identified as (+)-ar-himachalene; (+)-trans-α-himachalene; (+)-γ-cadinene. Two others were new enantiomers of himachalene hydrocarbons that were previously identified from the fir trees, Abies alba and Abies nordmanniana. Finally, there were two himachalene alcohols and one norsesquiterpene ketone that is a himachalene analog. Only (+)-ar-himachalene and (+)-γ-cadinene are previously known natural products. Electrophysiological activity was demonstrated for five of the compounds. The chemical and electrophysiological patterns are consistent with, but do not prove, a pheromonal function.