Phenological fate of plant-acquired pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the polyphagous arctiid Estigmene acrea
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The alkaloid profiles of the life history stages of the highly polyphagous arctiid Estigmene acrea were established. As larvae individuals had free choice between a plain diet (alkaloid-free) and a diet that was supplemented with Crotalaria-pumila powder with a known content and composition of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Idiosyncratic retronecine esters (insect PAs) accounted for approximately half of the PAs recovered from the larvae. These alkaloids were synthesized by the larvae through esterification of dietary supinidine yielding the estigmines, and esterification of retronecine yielding the creatonotines. The retronecine is derived from insect-mediated degradation of the sequestered pumilines (macrocyclic PAs of the monocrotaline type). With one exception, the PA profiles established for larvae were found almost unaltered in all life-stages as well as larval exuviae and pupal cocoons. The exception is the males, which in comparison to pupae and adult females, showed a significantly decreased quantity of the creatonotines and pumilines. These data support the idea that the creatonotines are direct precursors of the PA-derived male courtship pheromone, hydroxydanaidal. Crosses of PA-free males with PA-containing females and vice versa confirmed an efficient trans-mission of PAs from males to females and then from females to eggs. In single cases a male bestowed almost his total PA load to the female, and a female her total load to the eggs. The results are discussed with respect to pheromone formation, PA transmission between life-stages, and the defensive role of PAs against predators and parasitoids
Key words.Alkaloid sequestration pyrrolizidine alkaloids insect alkaloids alkaloid transmission male courtship pheromone chemical defense Arctiidae Estigmene acrea
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