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    Insect cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) consist of complex mixtures of straight-chain alkanes and alkenes, and methyl-branched hydrocarbons. In addition to restricting water loss through the cuticle and preventing desiccation, they have secondarily evolved to serve a variety of functions in chemical communication and play critical roles as signals mediating the life histories of insects. In this review, we describe the physical properties of CHCs that allow for both waterproofing and signaling functions, summarize their roles as inter- and intraspecific chemical signals, and discuss the influences of diet and environment on CHC profiles. We also present advances in our understanding of hydrocarbon biosynthesis. Hydrocarbons are biosynthesized in oenocytes and transported to the cuticle by lipophorin proteins. Recent work on the synthesis of fatty acids and their ultimate reductive decarbonylation to hydrocarbons has taken advantage of powerful new tools of molecular biology, including genomics and RNA interference knockdown of specific genes, to provide new insights into the biosynthesis of hydrocarbons.


    Gary J Blomquist, Matthew D Ginzel. Chemical Ecology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology of Insect Hydrocarbons. Annual review of entomology. 2021 Jan 07;66:45-60

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    PMID: 33417824

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