About our group
Our research group studies the biology of social insects, especially the termites. We follow three main lines of research. First, we are interested in the chemical ecology of termites, namely in the diversity of exocrine chemicals (pheromones, defensive compounds), their biosynthesis and biological significance. Second, we study the biology of reproduction of termite colonies, with emphasis on genetic mechanisms underlying their reproductive success. And third, we search for the physiological mechanisms responsible for the extraordinary longevity of termite kings and queens.
Identification and Enantiodivergent Synthesis of (5Z,9S)-Tetradec-5-en-9-olide, a Queen-Specific Volatile of the Termite Silvestritermes minutus
Journal of Natural Products 81 (10): 2266-2274 (2018).
The queens of social insects differ from sterile colony members in many aspects of their physiology. Besides adaptations linked with their specialization for reproduction and extended lifespan, the queens also invest in the maintenance of their reproductive dominance by producing exocrine chemicals signaling their presence to the nestmates. The knowledge of the chemistry of queen-specific cues in termites is scarce. In addition to the contact recognition based on cuticular hydrocarbons, long-range signals mediated by volatiles are expected to participate in queen signaling, especially in populous colonies of higher termites (Termitidae). In queens of the higher termite Silvestritermes minutus (Syntermitinae), we have detected a previously undescribed volatile. It is present in important quantities on the body surface and in the headspace, ovaries, and body cavity. MS and GC-FTIR data analyses led us to propose the structure of the compound to be a macrolide 10-pentyl-3,4,5,8,9,10-hexahydro-2H-oxecin-2-one. We performed enantiodivergent syntheses of two possible enantiomers starting from enantiopure (S)-glycidyl tosylate. The synthetic sequence involved macrolide-closing metathesis quenched with a ruthenium scavenging agent. The absolute and relative configuration of the compound was assigned to be (5Z,9S)-tetradec-5-en-9-olide. Identification and preparation of the compound allow for investigation of its biological significance.
Exquisite ligand stereoselectivity of a Drosophila juvenile hormone receptor contrasts with its broad agonist repertoire
Journal of Biological Chemistry 294 (2): 410-423 (2019).
Widespread occurrence of asexual reproduction in higher termites of the Termes group (Termitidae: Termitinae)
BMC Evolutionary Biology 19 : 131 (2019).