Deceptive pollination often involves volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions that mislead insects into performing non-rewarding pollination. Among deceptively pollinated plants, Arum maculatum is particularly well-known for its potent dung-like VOC emissions and specialized floral chamber, which traps pollinators-mainly Psychoda phalaenoides and P. grisescens-overnight. However, little is known about the genes underlying the production of many A. maculatum VOCs, and their influence on variation in pollinator attraction rates. Therefore, we performed de novo transcriptome sequencing of A. maculatum appendix and male floret tissue collected during- and post-anthesis, from ten natural populations across Europe. These RNA-seq data were paired with GC-MS analyses of floral scent composition and pollinator data collected from the same inflorescences. Differential expression analyses revealed candidate transcripts in appendix tissue linked to malodourous VOCs including indole, p-cresol, and 2-heptanone. Additionally, we found that terpene synthase expression in male floret tissue during anthesis significantly covaried with sex- and species-specific attraction of Psychoda phalaenoides and P. grisescens. Taken together, our results provide the first insights into molecular mechanisms underlying pollinator attraction patterns in A. maculatum, and highlight floral chamber sesquiterpene (e.g. bicyclogermacrene) synthases as interesting candidate genes for further study.
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