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Genes involved in the biosynthesis of Chiloglottis semiochemicals

The processes of gene duplication, followed by divergence and selection, probably underpin the evolution of floral volatiles crucial to plant–insect interactions. The Australian sexually deceptive Chiloglottis orchids use a class of 2,5-dialkylcyclohexan-1,3-dione volatiles or ‘chiloglottones’ to attract specific male wasp pollinators. Here, we explore the expression and evolution of fatty acid pathway genes implicated in chiloglottone biosynthesis.

Insect on a Chiloglottis orchid

Both Chiloglottis seminuda and C. trapeziformis produce chiloglottone 1, but only the phylogenetically distinct C. seminuda produces this volatile from both the labellum callus and glandular sepal tips. Transcriptome sequencing and tissue-specific contrasts of the active and non-active floral tissues was performed. The effects of the fatty acid synthase inhibitor cerulenin on chiloglottone production were tested. Patterns of selection and gene evolution were investigated for fatty acid pathway genes.

By capitalizing on a phylogenetically distinct Chiloglottis from earlier studies, Wong et al. show that the transcriptional and biochemical dynamics linked to chiloglottone biosynthesis in active tissues are conserved across Chiloglottis. A combination of tissue-specific expression and relaxed purifying selection operating at specific fatty acid pathway genes may hold the key to the evolution of chiloglottones.

Written by Alex Assiry

Alex Assiry is an editorial assistant in the Annals of Botany Office. When not working, Alex listens for the opportunity to help.

Graph of heteromorph and monomorph naturalization

Fruit heteromorphism and naturalization success in Asteraceae

Tuberaria guttata

Reproductive assurance weakens pollinator-mediated selection on flower size