High Chemical Diversity in a Wasp Pheromone: a Blend of Methyl 6-Methylsalicylate, Fatty Alcohol Acetates and Cuticular Hydrocarbons Releases Courtship Behavior in the Drosophila Parasitoid Asobara tabida
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Wasps of genus Asobara, a larval parasitoid of Drosophila, have become model organisms for the study of host-parasite interactions. However, little is known about the role of pheromones in locating mates and courtship behavior in this genus. In the present study, we aimed to identify the female courtship pheromone in Asobara tabida. The chemical compositions of solvent extracts from male and female wasps were analyzed by GC/MS. These extracts, fractions thereof, and synthetic pheromone candidates were tested for their activity in behavioral bioassays. The results demonstrate that the courtship pheromone of A. tabida is characterized by a remarkable chemical diversity. A multi-component blend of female-specific compounds including methyl 6-methylsalicylate (M6M), fatty alcohol acetates (FAAs), and cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) released male courtship behavior. Using a combinatory approach that included both purified natural products and synthetic analogs, it was shown that none of the three chemical classes alone was sufficient to release a full behavioral response in males. However, a blend of M6M and FAAs or combinations of one or both of these with female-derived CHCs resulted in wing-fanning responses by males comparable to those elicited by the crude extract of females. Thus, components from all three chemical classes contribute to the bioactivity of the pheromone, but none of the elements plays a key role or is irreplaceable. The fact that one of the FAAs, vaccenyl acetate, is also used as a kairomone by Asobara females to locate Drosophila hosts suggests that a pre-existing sensory responsiveness to vaccenyl acetate might have been involved in the evolution of the female sex pheromone in Asobara.
KeywordsAsobara tabida Parasitoid wasp Sex pheromone Methyl 6-methylsalicylate Fatty alcohol acetate Cuticular hydrocarbons Sensory exploitation
We thank Thomas Hoffmeister, University of Bremen, for sending us a starter culture of A. tabida, Michael Brummer for rearing the insects, and Tomer Czaczkes for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was funded by the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG; grant STO 966/1-1 to J.S.).
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