Wings and legs are production sites for the desert locust courtship-inhibition pheromone, phenylacetonitrile

J Insect Physiol. 2003 Dec;49(12):1125-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2003.08.005.


Mature gregarious male desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria, emit the courtship inhibition pheromone phenylacetonitrile. Wings and legs, in particular the fore wings, have been identified as the main releasing sites. Abdomen and head emit only trace amounts of this pheromone. In contrast veratrole, another typical component of male volatiles, is emitted by all body parts. Epidermal gland cells in the identified phenylacetonitrile releasing appendages are the putative sites of its biosynthesis. Incubation of these body parts in the presence of (14)C-phenylalanine results in the production of (14)C-phenylacetonitrile. Some of the phenylacetonitrile appears to be degraded to HCN and benzaldehyde presumably enhancing the repellent character of phenylacetonitrile. HCN is only detectable in volatiles of mature gregarious male desert locusts. Possible advantages of the observed distribution of the phenylacetonitrile release sites and of the cyanogenesis in relation to mating behaviour are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetonitriles / analysis
  • Acetonitriles / metabolism*
  • Acetonitriles / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anisoles / analysis
  • Anisoles / metabolism
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / methods
  • Courtship
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Grasshoppers / anatomy & histology
  • Grasshoppers / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Phenylalanine / analogs & derivatives
  • Phenylalanine / metabolism
  • Sex Attractants / analysis
  • Sex Attractants / biosynthesis*
  • Sex Attractants / pharmacology
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Wings, Animal / anatomy & histology
  • Wings, Animal / metabolism


  • Acetonitriles
  • Anisoles
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Sex Attractants
  • benzyl cyanide
  • Phenylalanine
  • veratrole