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J Insect Physiol. 1997 Nov;43(12):1111-1116.

Incorporation of fatty acids into cuticular hydrocarbons of male and female Drosophila melanogaster.

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Laboratoire des Mécanismes de Communication, URA-CNRS 1491, Bat. 446, Université de Paris- Sud, F - 91405, Orsay, France


The biosynthesis of cuticular hydrocarbons was investigated in male and female Drosophila melanogaster (Canton-S strain), especially in those with a pheromonal role i.e. male 7-tricosene and female 7, 11- heptacosadiene. The incorporation of radioactivity was followed after topical application of (14)C-labelled myristic, palmitic and stearic acid and (3)H-labelled cis-vaccenic acid on one to ten day old flies. The incorporation levels into unsaturated hydrocarbons are similar in both sexes, depending markedly on the chain length of the saturated precursor, with a maximum level from myristic acid. Cis-vaccenic acid leads only to unsaturated compounds. With this precursor, there is an enhanced incorporation into female monoenes and dienes, maximum in two to three day old females. The total fatty acid composition shows the highest abundance of fatty acids with 16 carbon atoms and the presence of a major position for double bond, Delta9. Moreover, cis-vaccenic acid and 17-tetracosenoic acid are identified by GC-MS analysis. These data support an elongation-decarboxylation mechanism for the biosynthesis of D. melanogaster cuticular hydrocarbons. Its early steps for male monoenes and female monoenes and dienes might involve a Delta9 desaturase transforming palmitic acid into palmitoleic acid which would then be elongated into vaccenic acid, an important common precursor for all pheromones.

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