Tales from Chemical Ecology

Datum / Uhrzeit:
27.05.19   /  01:15 pm - 02:00 pm

Graduiertenkolleg 2158

Haus der Universität, Schadowplatz 14, 40212 Düsseldorf



Graduiertenkolleg 2158
Tales from Chemical Ecology
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Peter Proksch

Natural products (also known as secondary metabolites) are integral for intra- and interspecific communication of organisms. Well known examples include pheromones that are used for partner finding by insects or feeding deterrents that protect plants from grazing herbivores. In this lecture three examples of chemically mediated interactions between organisms that are taken from our group will be presented. The first example involves natural products from lichens, also known as lichen substances. Many of these compounds are phenolic in nature and are derived from the polyketide pathway. These compounds serve as powerful feeding deterrents against polyphagous insect herbivores. There are nevertheless specialized lichen feeders such as moths and snails that feed preferably on chemically rich lichens and are not deterred by lichen substances. As we could show, these specialized feeders not only tolerate lichen deterrents but also store these compounds in their tissues and possibly use them for their own chemical defence against predators.

The second example involves Lycaenid butterflies. Larvae of these butterflies feed on plants rich in flavonoids. We could show that host plant derived flavonoids are being taken up by the larvae, stored in their tissues and transferred to the adult butterflies. There flavonoids are accumulated as distinct UV-light absorbing spots preferably in the wings where they probably serve as visual clues for partner recognition. The third example is staken from the marine environment. Sponges of the genus Aplysina which are found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic are rich in brominated isoxazoline alkaloids. We could show that wounding of the sponges induces a rapid enzymatically catalyzed bioconversion of alkloids which leads to smaller cleavage products that show strong antibiotic properties and are thought to protect the sponges from microbial infections.

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