Genetic and genomic architecture of species-specific cuticular hydrocarbon variation in parasitoid wasps

Jan Buellesbach, Henrietta Holze, Lukas Schrader, Jürgen Liebig, Thomas Schmitt, Juergen Gadau, Oliver Niehuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) serve two fundamental functions in insects: protection against desiccation and chemical signalling. How the interaction of genes shapes CHC profiles, which are essential for insect survival, adaptation and reproductive success, is still poorly understood. Here we investigate the genetic and genomic basis of CHC biosynthesis and variation in parasitoid wasps of the genus Nasonia. We mapped 91 quantitative trait loci (QTL) explaining the variation of a total of 43 CHCs in F2 hybrid males from interspecific crosses between three Nasonia species. To identify candidate genes, we localized orthologues of CHC biosynthesis-related genes in the Nasonia genomes. We discovered multiple genomic regions where the location of QTL coincides with the location of CHC biosynthesis-related candidate genes. Most conspicuously, on a region close to the centromere of chromosome 1, multiple CHC biosynthesis-related candidate genes co-localize with several QTL explaining variation in methyl-branched alkanes. The genetic underpinnings behind this compound class are not well understood so far, despite their high potential for encoding chemical information as well as their prevalence in hymenopteran CHC profiles. Our study considerably extends our knowledge on the genetic architecture governing this important compound class, establishing a model for methyl-branched alkane genetics in the Hymenoptera in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220336
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1976
StatePublished - 2022


  • Comparative genomics
  • Nasonia
  • gene mapping
  • hymenoptera
  • orthologue inference
  • quantitative trait loci

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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