Microbial Volatile Emissions as Insect Semiochemicals

Thomas Seth Davis, Tawni L. Crippen, Richard Hofstetter, Jeffery K. Tomberlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

164 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We provide a synthesis of the literature describing biochemical interactions between microorganisms and insects by way of microbial volatile organic compound (MVOC) production. We evaluated the functionality and ecological context of MVOC signals, and explored important metabolic pathways involved in MVOC production. The cosmopolitan distribution of microorganisms creates a context for frequent, and frequently overlooked, insect responses to microbial emissions. There are numerous instances of MVOCs being closely associated with insect feeding behaviors, but some MVOCs are also powerful repellants. Emissions from microorganisms in situ may signal aspects of habitat suitability or potential exposure to entomopathogens. In some ecosystems, bacterial or fungal volatiles can also incite insect aggregations, or MVOCs can resemble sexual pheromones that elicit mating and oviposition behaviors from responding insects. A single microorganism or MVOC can have different effects on insect behaviors, especially across species, ontogenies, and habitats. There appears to be a multipartite basis for insect responses to MVOCs, and complex tritrophic interactions can result from the production of MVOCs. Many biochemical pathways for behaviorally active volatile production by microbial species are conserved across large taxonomic groupings of microorganisms. In addition, there is substantial functional redundancy in MVOCs: fungal tissues commonly produce polyketides and short-chain alcohols, whereas bacterial tissues tend to be more commonly associated with amines and pyrazines. We hypothesize that insect olfactory responses to emissions from microorganisms inhabiting their sensory environment are much more common than currently recognized, and that these signals represent evolutionarily reliable infochemicals. Insect chemoreception of microbial volatiles may contribute to the formation of neutral, beneficial, or even harmful symbioses and provide considerable insight into the evolution of insect behavioral responses to volatile compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-859
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Volume39
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Fingerprint

semiochemical
semiochemicals
Pheromones
Microorganisms
Insects
Volatile Organic Compounds
insect
insects
volatile organic compounds
microorganisms
microorganism
volatile organic compound
insect behavior
Ecosystem
Tissue
Pyrazines
Polyketides
biochemical pathways
Sex Attractants
tritrophic interactions

Keywords

  • Attraction
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Insect behavior
  • Microbes
  • Orientation
  • Pheromones
  • Signaling
  • Tritrophic interaction
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry

Cite this

Microbial Volatile Emissions as Insect Semiochemicals. / Davis, Thomas Seth; Crippen, Tawni L.; Hofstetter, Richard; Tomberlin, Jeffery K.

In: Journal of Chemical Ecology, Vol. 39, No. 7, 07.2013, p. 840-859.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Davis, Thomas Seth ; Crippen, Tawni L. ; Hofstetter, Richard ; Tomberlin, Jeffery K. / Microbial Volatile Emissions as Insect Semiochemicals. In: Journal of Chemical Ecology. 2013 ; Vol. 39, No. 7. pp. 840-859.
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