Toxic peptides containing D-amino acids are reported from the larvae of sawfly species. The compounds are suspected to constitute environmental contaminants, as they have killed livestock grazing in areas with congregations of such larvae, and related larval extracts are deleterious to ants. Previously, two octapeptides (both called lophyrotomin) and three heptapeptides (pergidin, 4-valinepergidin and dephosphorylated pergidin) were identified from three species in the family Pergidae and one in Argidae. Here, the hypothesis of widespread occurrence of these peptides among sawflies was tested by LC-MS analyses of single larvae from eight pergid and 28 argid species, plus nine outgroup species. At least two of the five peptides were detected in most sawfly species, whereas none in any outgroup taxon. Wherever peptides were detected, they were present in each examined specimen of the respective species. Some species show high peptide concentrations, reaching up to 0.6% fresh weight of 4-valinepergidin (1.75 mg/larva) in the pergid Pterygophorus nr turneri. All analyzed pergids in the subfamily Pterygophorinae contained pergidin and 4-valinepergidin, all argids in Arginae contained pergidin and one of the two lophyrotomins, whereas none of the peptides was detected in any Perginae pergid or Sterictiphorinae argid (except in Schizocerella pilicornis , which contained pergidin). Three of the four sawfly species that were previously known to contain toxins were reanalyzed here, resulting in several, often strong, quantitative and qualitative differences in the chemical profiles. The most probable ecological role of the peptides is defense against natural enemies; the poisoning of livestock is an epiphenomenon. © 2014 Boevé et al.
Boevé, J. L., Rozenberg, R., Shinohara, A., & Schmidt, S. (2014). Toxic peptides occur frequently in pergid and argid sawfly larvae. PLoS ONE, 9(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105301