Epimerisation of chiral hydroxylactones by short-chain dehydrogenases/reductases accounts for sex pheromone evolution in Nasonia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Males of all species of the parasitic wasp genus Nasonia use (4R,5S)-5-hydroxy-4-decanolide (RS) as component of their sex pheromone while only N. vitripennis (Nv), employs additionally (4R,5R)-5-hydroxy-4-decanolide (RR). Three genes coding for the NAD + -dependent short-chain dehydrogenases/reductases (SDRs) NV10127, NV10128, and NV10129 are linked to the ability of Nv to produce RR. Here we show by assaying recombinant enzymes that SDRs from both Nv and N. giraulti (Ng), the latter a species with only RS in the pheromone, epimerise RS into RR and vice versa with (4R)-5-oxo-4-decanolide as an intermediate. Nv-derived SDR orthologues generally had higher epimerisation rates, which were also influenced by NAD + availability. Semiquantitative protein analyses of the pheromone glands by tandem mass spectrometry revealed that NV10127 as well as NV10128 and/or NV10129 were more abundant in Nv compared to Ng. We conclude that the interplay of differential expression patterns and SDR epimerisation rates on the ancestral pheromone component RS accounts for the evolution of a novel pheromone phenotype in Nv.


  • Joachim Ruther
  • Åsa K. Hagström
  • Birgit Brandstetter
  • John Hofferberth
  • Astrid Bruckmann
  • Florian Semmelmann
  • Michaela Fink
  • Helena Lowack
  • Sabine Laberer
  • Oliver Niehuis
  • Rainer Deutzmann
  • Christer Löfstedt
  • Reinhard Sterner
External organisations
  • University of Regensburg
  • Kenyon College
  • Alexander Koenig Research Museum
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Original languageEnglish
Article number34697
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct 5
Publication categoryResearch