Independently recruited oxidases from the glucose-methanol-choline oxidoreductase family enabled chemical defences in leaf beetle larvae (subtribe Chrysomelina) to evolve

Proc Biol Sci. 2014 Aug 7;281(1788):20140842. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0842.


Larvae of the leaf beetle subtribe Chrysomelina sensu stricto repel their enemies by displaying glandular secretions that contain defensive compounds. These repellents can be produced either de novo (iridoids) or by using plant-derived precursors (e.g. salicylaldehyde). The autonomous production of iridoids, as in Phaedon cochleariae, is the ancestral chrysomeline chemical defence and predates the evolution of salicylaldehyde-based defence. Both biosynthesis strategies include an oxidative step of an alcohol intermediate. In salicylaldehyde-producing species, this step is catalysed by salicyl alcohol oxidases (SAOs) of the glucose-methanol-choline (GMC) oxidoreductase superfamily, but the enzyme oxidizing the iridoid precursor is unknown. Here, we show by in vitro as well as in vivo experiments that P. cochleariae also uses an oxidase from the GMC superfamily for defensive purposes. However, our phylogenetic analysis of chrysomeline GMC oxidoreductases revealed that the oxidase of the iridoid pathway originated from a GMC clade different from that of the SAOs. Thus, the evolution of a host-independent chemical defence followed by a shift to a host-dependent chemical defence in chrysomeline beetles coincided with the utilization of genes from different GMC subfamilies. These findings illustrate the importance of the GMC multi-gene family for adaptive processes in plant-insect interactions.

Keywords: RNA interference; chemical defence; insects; iridoid biosynthesis; phylogeny; secretions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Coleoptera / enzymology
  • Coleoptera / genetics*
  • Coleoptera / growth & development
  • Coleoptera / metabolism
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Larva / enzymology
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organ Specificity
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Insect Proteins
  • Oxidoreductases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/GAPU00000000
  • GENBANK/GARF00000000