Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 187–197 | Cite as

An IDS-Type Sesquiterpene Synthase Produces the Pheromone Precursor (Z)-α-Bisabolene in Nezara viridula

  • Jason Lancaster
  • Bryan Lehner
  • Ashot Khrimian
  • Andrew Muchlinski
  • Katrin Luck
  • Tobias G. Köllner
  • Donald C. Weber
  • Dawn E. Gundersen-Rindal
  • Dorothea ThollEmail author


Insects use a wide range of structurally diverse pheromones for intra-specific communication. Compounds in the class of terpenes are emitted as sex, aggregation, alarm, or trail pheromones. Despite the common occurrence of terpene pheromones in different insect lineages, their origin from dietary host plant precursors or de novo biosynthetic pathways often remains unknown. Several stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) release bisabolene-type sesquiterpenes for aggregation and mating. Here we provide evidence for de novo biosynthesis of the sex pheromone trans−/cis-(Z)-α-bisabolene epoxide of the Southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula. We show that an enzyme (NvTPS) related to isoprenyl diphosphate synthases (IDSs) of the core terpene metabolic pathway functions as a terpene synthase (TPS), which converts the general intermediate (E,E)-farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) to the putative pheromone precursor (+)-(S,Z)-α-bisabolene in vitro and in protein lysates. A second identified IDS-type protein (NvFPPS) makes the TPS substrate (E,E)-FPP and functions as a bona fide FPP synthase. NvTPS is highly expressed in male epidermal tissue associated with the cuticle of ventral sternites, which is in agreement with the male specific release of the pheromone from glandular cells in this tissue. Our study supports findings of the function of similar TPS enzymes in the biosynthesis of aggregation pheromones from the pine engraver beetle Ips pini, the striped flea beetle Phyllotreta striolata, and the harlequin bug Murgantia histrionica, and hence provides growing evidence for the evolution of terpene de novo biosynthesis by IDS-type TPS families in insects.


Hemiptera Pentatomidae Southern green stink bug Sex pheromone Terpene synthase Isoprenyl diphosphate synthase 



We are grateful to Megan Herlihy for maintenance of the Nezara colony at ARS IIBBL in Beltsville. This work was supported by Grant 2016-67013-24759 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (to D.T., A.K., D.C.W., D.E.G.-R.) and the Virginia Tech Translational Plant Sciences Program.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Lancaster
    • 1
  • Bryan Lehner
    • 1
  • Ashot Khrimian
    • 2
  • Andrew Muchlinski
    • 1
  • Katrin Luck
    • 3
  • Tobias G. Köllner
    • 3
  • Donald C. Weber
    • 2
  • Dawn E. Gundersen-Rindal
    • 2
  • Dorothea Tholl
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory, US Department of AgricultureAgricultural Research ServiceBeltsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiochemistryMax Planck Institute for Chemical EcologyJenaGermany

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