Fungal Symbionts of the Spruce Bark Beetle Synthesize the Beetle Aggregation Pheromone 2-Methyl-3-buten-2-ol
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- Zhao, T., Axelsson, K., Krokene, P. et al. J Chem Ecol (2015) 41: 848. doi:10.1007/s10886-015-0617-3
Tree-killing bark beetles depend on aggregation pheromones to mass-attack their host trees and overwhelm their resistance. The beetles are always associated with phytopathogenic ophiostomatoid fungi that probably assist in breaking down tree resistance, but little is known about if or how much these fungal symbionts contribute to the beetles’ aggregation behavior. In this study, we determined the ability of four major fungal symbionts of the spruce bark beetle Ips typographus to produce beetle aggregation pheromones. The fungi were incubated on Norway spruce Picea abies bark, malt agar, or malt agar amended with 0.5 % 13C glucose. Volatiles present in the headspace of each fungus were analyzed for 7 days after incubation using a SPME autosampler coupled to a GC/MS. Two Grosmannia species (G. penicillata and G. europhioides) produced large amounts of 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol (MB), the major component in the beetles’ aggregation pheromone blend, when growing on spruce bark or malt agar. Grosmannia europhioides also incorporated 13C glucose into MB, demonstrating that the fungi can synthesize MB de novo using glucose as a carbon source. This is the first clear evidence that fungal symbionts of bark beetles can produce components in the aggregation pheromone blend of their beetle vectors. This provides new insight into the possible ecological roles of fungal symbionts in bark beetle systems and may deepen our understanding of species interactions and coevolution in these important biological systems.