Patterns of biosynthesis and accumulation of hydrocarbons and contact sex pheromone in the female German cockroach, Blattella germanica

Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 1994;25(4):375-91. doi: 10.1002/arch.940250411.


De novo synthesis of contact female sex pheromone and hydrocarbons in Blattella germanica was examined using short in vivo incubations. Accumulation of pheromone on the epicuticular surface and the internal pheromone titer were related to age-specific changes in hydrocarbon synthesis and accumulation in normal and allatectomized females. The incorporation of radiolabel from [1-14C]propionate into the cuticular methyl ketone pheromone fraction was positively related to corpora allata activity during two gonotrophic cycles. During peak pheromone production the total internal lipid fraction contained greater titers of pheromone than the cuticular surface, and it too exhibited a cycle internally, preceding the rise in external pheromone. This suggests that synthesis and accumulation of pheromone internally are followed by transport of pheromone to the epicuticular surface where it accumulates. Radiolabel was incorporated efficiently into both cuticular and internal hydrocarbons after the imaginal molt and until the peak of pheromone synthesis, but it declined to lower levels before ovulation and throughout pregnancy. The internal hydrocarbon titer decreased 58% after oviposition, suggesting deposition in the egg case. It remained relatively unchanged during pregnancy and increased again during the second gonotrophic cycle. In allatectomized females, hydrocarbon synthesis was reduced relative to control females until oviposition in the latter. However, subsequent rates of hydrocarbon synthesis in allatectomized females (without oothecae) exceeded the rates in sham-operated females (with oothecae). In the absence of ovarian uptake of hydrocarbons, the internal titer increased without the decline found in control females at oviposition. As internal hydrocarbons increased, so did cuticular hydrocarbons and both internal and cuticular methyl ketone pheromones. These patterns corresponded well with feeding patterns in sham-operated and allatectomized females, suggesting that pheromone production is normally regulated by stage-specific feeding-induced hydrocarbon synthesis (precursor accumulation internally) and juvenile hormone-induced conversion of hydrocarbon to pheromone. They also suggest that both the cuticle and the ovaries might be target sites for hydrocarbon and possibly methyl ketone deposition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Cockroaches / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism
  • Ketones / metabolism
  • Male
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Ovulation
  • Pheromones / biosynthesis
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Propionates / metabolism


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Ketones
  • Pheromones
  • Propionates
  • propionic acid