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Chemical convergence between plants and insects: biosynthetic origins and functions of common secondary metabolites

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Beran,  Franziska
Research Group Dr. F. Beran, Detoxification in Insects, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Köllner,  Tobias G.
Department of Biochemistry, Prof. J. Gershenzon, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Gershenzon,  Jonathan
Department of Biochemistry, Prof. J. Gershenzon, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Beran, F., Köllner, T. G., Gershenzon, J., & Tholl, D. (2019). Chemical convergence between plants and insects: biosynthetic origins and functions of common secondary metabolites. New Phytologist. doi:10.1111/nph.15718.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-EB4B-2
Abstract
Despite the phylogenetic distance between plants and insects, these two groups of organisms produce some secondary metabolites in common. Identical structures belonging to chemical classes such as the simple monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, iridoid monoterpenes, cyanogenic glycosides, benzoic acid derivatives, benzoquinones and naphthoquinones are sometimes found in both plants and insects. In addition, very similar glucohydrolases involved in activating two component defenses, such as glucosinolates and cyanogenic glycosides, occur in both plants and insects. While this trend was first noted many years ago, researchers have long struggled to find convincing explanations for such co‐occurrence. In some cases, identical compounds may be produced by plants to interfere with their function in insects. But, in other cases, plant and insect compounds may simply have parallel functions, probably in defense or attraction, and their co‐occurrence is a coincidence. The biosynthetic origin of such co‐occurring metabolites may be very different in insects as compared to plants. Plants and insects may have different pathways to the same metabolite, or similar sequences of intermediates, but different enzymes. Further knowledge of the ecological roles and biosynthetic pathways of secondary metabolites may shed more light on why plants and insects produce identical substances.