Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 439–451 | Cite as

Putative Pathway of Sex Pheromone Biosynthesis and Degradation by Expression Patterns of Genes Identified from Female Pheromone Gland and Adult Antenna of Sesamia inferens (Walker)

  • Ya-Nan Zhang
  • Yi-Han Xia
  • Jia-Yao Zhu
  • Sheng-Yun Li
  • Shuang-Lin DongEmail author


The general pathway of biosynthesis and degradation for Type-I sex pheromones in moths is well established, but some genes involved in this pathway remain to be characterized. The purple stem borer, Sesamia inferens, employs a pheromone blend containing components with three different terminal functional groups (Z11-16:OAc, Z11-16:OH, and Z11-16:Ald) of Type-I sex pheromones. Thus, it provides a good model to study the diversity of genes involved in pheromone biosynthesis and degradation pathways. By analyzing previously obtained transcriptomic data of the sex pheromone glands and antennae, we identified 73 novel genes that are possibly related to pheromone biosynthesis (46 genes) or degradation (27 genes). Gene expression patterns and phylogenetic analysis revealed that one desaturase (SinfDes4), one fatty acid reductase (SinfFAR2), and one fatty acid xtransport protein (SinfFATP1) genes were predominantly expressed in pheromone glands, and clustered with genes involved in pheromone synthesis in other moth species. Ten genes including five carboxylesterases (SinfCXE10, 13, 14, 18, and 20), three aldehyde oxidases (SinfAOX1, 2 and 3), and two alcohol dehydrogenases (SinfAD1 and 3) were expressed specifically or predominantly in antennae, and could be candidate genes involved in pheromone degradation. SinfAD1 and 3 are the first reported alcohol dehydrogenase genes with antennae-biased expression. Based on these results we propose a pathway involving these potential enzyme-encoding gene candidates in sex pheromone biosynthesis and degradation in S. inferens. This study provides robust background information for further elucidation of the genetic basis of sex pheromone biosynthesis and degradation, and ultimately provides potential targets to disrupt sexual communication in S. inferens for control purposes.


Purple stem borer Transcriptome analysis Sex pheromone gland Sex pheromone biosynthesis Degradation 



Pheromone glands


Fatty acid reductases


Alcohol oxidase




Fatty acid transport proteins


Acyl-CoA binding proteins


Odorant receptor


Odorant degrading enzyme




Aldehyde oxidase


Alcohol dehydrogenase


Polymerase chain reaction


Reverse transcription PCR


Quantitative real-time PCR


Complementary DNA


Rapid amplification of cDNA End


Coenzyme A


Acetate ester






Standard error



We thank Master students Rong Jin, Guan-Heng Zhu, He-Tan Chang, and Si-Bao Wang (Nanjing Agricultural University, China) for assistance in collecting the insects. We also thank Dr. Peng He (Guizhou University, China) and two anonymous reviewers for critical suggestions in writing of the manuscript. This work was supported by a Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (201303017) and a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation (31372264) of China.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10886_2014_433_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Figure S1 Phylogenetic tree of insect desaturase (Des). The S. inferens translated genes are shown in blue. Accession numbers are given in Table S2. The tree was constructed with MEGA5.0, using the neighbour-joining method. Values at the nodes are results of bootstrap with 1,000 replicates. Values < 50 % are not shown. (DOCX 2813 kb)
10886_2014_433_MOESM2_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Figure S2 Phylogenetic tree of insect fatty acid redutase (FAR). The S. inferens translated genes are shown in blue. Accession numbers are given in Table S2. The tree was constructed with MEGA5.0, using the neighbour-joining method. Values at the nodes are results of bootstrap with 1,000 replicates. Values < 50 % are not shown. (DOCX 2813 kb)
10886_2014_433_MOESM3_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Figure S3 hylogenetic tree of insect carboxylesterases (CXE). The S. inferens translated genes are shown in blue. Accession numbers are given in Table S2. The tree was constructed with MEGA5.0, using the neighbour-joining method. Values at the nodes are results of bootstrap with 1,000 replicates. Values < 50 % are not shown. (DOCX 2813 kb)
10886_2014_433_MOESM4_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Figure S4 Phylogenetic tree of insect aldehyde oxidases (AOX). The S. inferens translated genes are shown in blue. Accession numbers are given in Table S2. The tree was constructed with MEGA5.0, using the neighbour-joining method. Values at the nodes are results of bootstrap with 1,000 replicates. Values < 50 % are not shown. (DOCX 2813 kb)
10886_2014_433_MOESM5_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Figure S5 Expression of 15 randomly chosen genes for repeatability checking of the RT-PCR method using a second cDNA sample. GAPDH gene was used as a positive control and NC (no cDNA template) as a negative control. PG, female pheromone glands; A, antennae; T, thoraxes; Ab, abdomens (female without PG); L, legs; W, wings. ♀, female; ♂, male. (DOCX 2813 kb)
10886_2014_433_MOESM6_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Table S1 Primers Used for qPCR, RT-PCR and RACE. (DOCX 19 kb)
10886_2014_433_MOESM7_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Table S2 Accession Numbers for Amino Acid Sequences of Dess, FARs, CXEs and AOXs Used in Phylogenetic Analyses. (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ya-Nan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yi-Han Xia
    • 1
  • Jia-Yao Zhu
    • 1
  • Sheng-Yun Li
    • 1
  • Shuang-Lin Dong
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Education Ministry, Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Crop Diseases and Pests, College of Plant ProtectionNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.College of Life SciencesHuaibei Normal UniversityHuaibeiChina
  3. 3.Department of EntomologyNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

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