A sex pheromone assembly line in Manduca sexta

Scientists from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague, Czech Republic, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, studied the pheromone chemistry of moths and discovered a new evolutionary mechanism: A single amino acid residue in desaturases of the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta switches the desaturase products from mono- and di-unsaturated to tri-unsaturated sex pheromone precursors. The susceptibility of desaturases to major shifts in their specificities, due to minor mutations, may significantly contribute to the divergence in moth pheromone communication and so lead to the evolution of new insect species. (Mehr in: Pressemitteilungen – idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft)