exo-Brevicomin Biosynthesis in the Fat Body of the Mountain Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae
exo-Brevicomin (exo-7-ethyl-5-methyl-6,8-dioxabicyclo[3.2.1]octane) is an important semiochemical for a number of beetle species, including the highly destructive mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae. It also has been found in other insects and even in the African elephant. Despite its significance, little is known about its biosynthesis. In order to fill this gap and to identify new molecular targets for potential pest management methods, we performed gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analyses of cell cultures and in vitro assays of various D. ponderosae tissues with exo-brevicomin intermediates, analogs, and inhibitors. We confirmed that exo-brevicomin was synthesized by “unfed” males after emerging from the brood tree. Furthermore, in contrast to the paradigm established for biosynthesis of monoterpenoid pheromone components in bark beetles, exo-brevicomin was produced in the fat body, and not in the anterior midgut. The first committed step involves decarboxylation or decarbonylation of ω-3-decenoic acid, which is derived from a longer-chain precursor via β-oxidation, to (Z)-6-nonen-2-ol. This secondary alcohol is converted to the known precursor, (Z)-6-nonen-2-one, and further epoxidized by a cytochrome P450 to 6,7-epoxynonan-2-one. The keto-epoxide is stable at physiological pH, suggesting that its final cyclization to form exo-brevicomin is enzyme-catalyzed. exo-Brevicomin production is unusual in that tissue not derived from ectoderm apparently is involved.
Keywordsexo-brevicomin Bark beetle Pheromone Metabolic pathway Tissue culture
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