Research Group Biochemical Ecology and Molecular Evolution

Insect adaptations to toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids

What are the mechanisms that allow insects adapted to pyrrolizidine alkaloids to accumulate these toxins without harm? For the cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) and a tropical grasshopper species (Zonocerus variegatus) we have been able to describe these mechanisms on the biochemical and molecular level.

There is another group of insects that adapted to pyrrolizidine alkaloids: the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and relatives. Do they use the same mechanism of adaptation? To elucidate this mechanism and to compare it with those of other insect groups will provide us a better understanding of the evolutionary processes that resulted in these specific adaptations between insect and plant.