Jonas has provided an edited version of the official press release from Nature Communications, which describes their exciting work: ”Certain plants and insects use cyanide-sugar conjugates as chemical bombs that release cyanide upon digestion by predators. How they both came to use this same defence technique has not been clear. Our collaboration partners study cyanide production in the Burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) larvae. Although the larvae can collect cyanide as a sugar conjugate from the plant food they eat, they can produce the very same compound independently. By shot-gun sequencing of the larvae’ s transcriptome and proteome in combination with product analysis of candidate enzymes we show that only three enzymes are needed by the larvae to produce cyanogenic glucosides in the same way as plants. The enzymes catalyze the same reactions in the plants and in the insects, but from sequence analysis we find that the plant and insect versions do not have common ancestors. We therefore conclude that, over the past 420 million years, plants and insects have evolved When bitten by a predator the larvae of the six-spotted burnet moth secrete cyanogenic glucosides in defence droplets. separately by convergent evolution to produce enzyme systems necessary for cyanide production in their defence against predators.”
When bitten by a predator the larvae of the six-spotted burnet moth secrete cyanogenic glucosides in defence droplets.