Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1–7 | Cite as

Biparental Endowment of Endogenous Defensive Alkaloids in Epilachna paenulata

  • Soledad Camarano
  • Andrés González
  • Carmen RossiniEmail author


Coccinellid beetles contain a variety of defensive alkaloids that render them unpalatable to predators. Epilachna paenulata (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) is a South American ladybird beetle that feeds on plants of the Cucurbitaceae family. The defensive chemistry of E. paenulata has been characterized as a mixture of systemic piperidine, homotropane, and pyrrolidine alkaloids. Whole body extracts of adult beetles contain four major alkaloids: 2-(2′-oxopropyl)-6-methylpiperidine (1); 1-(6-methyl-2,3,4,5-tetrahydro-pyridin-2-yl)-propan-2-one (2); 1-methyl-9-azabicyclo[3.3.1]nonan-3-one (3); and 1-(2″-hydroxyethyl)-2-(12′-aminotridecyl)-pyrrolidine (4). Comparative studies of the defensive chemistry of eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults showed differences in alkaloid composition and concentration among life stages. While adults contained mainly the homotropane 1-methyl-9-azabicyclo[3.3.1]nonan-3-one (3), eggs showed the highest concentration of the piperidine 2-(2′-oxopropyl)-6-methylpiperidine (1). We studied the origin of this alkaloid in the eggs by feeding newly emerged, virgin adult beetles with [2-13C]-labeled acetate, and by performing crosses between 13C-fed and unlabeled males and females. GC-MS analysis of alkaloids from 13C-fed males and females showed high incorporation of 13C into the alkaloids, as evidenced from a 20–30% increase of isotopic peaks in diagnostic fragment ions, confirming the expected endogenous origin of these alkaloids. In addition, analyses of eggs from different crosses showed that labeled alkaloids from both parents are incorporated into eggs, indicating that E. paenulata males transfer alkaloids to the females at mating. Biparental endowment of chemical defenses into eggs has been shown previously in insects that acquire defensive compounds from dietary sources. To our knowledge, this is the first report of biparental egg endowment of endogenous defenses.


Epilachna paenulata Nuptial gift Biparental endowment Egg defense Coleoptera Coccinellidae 



We are thankful for the financial support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH-USA), the International Foundation for Science (IFS), and the Program for the Development of Basic Sciences (PEDECIBA, Uruguay).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Soledad Camarano
    • 1
  • Andrés González
    • 1
  • Carmen Rossini
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Ecología Química, Departamento de Química Orgánica, Facultad de QuímicaUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay

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