Tree killing bark beetles and their vectored fungal pathogens are the most destructive agents of conifer forests worldwide. Conifers defend against attack by the constitutive and inducible production of oleoresin, a complex mixture of mono-, sesqui-, and diterpenoids that accumulates at the wound site to kill invaders and both flush and seal the injury. Although toxic to the bark beetle and fungal pathogen, oleoresin also plays a central role in the chemical ecology of these boring insects, from host selection to pheromone signaling and tritrophic level interactions. The biochemistry of oleoresin terpenoids is reviewed, and the regulation of production of this unusual plant secretion is described in the context of bark beetle infestation dynamics with respect to the function of the turpentine and rosin components. Recent advances in the molecular genetics of terpenoid biosynthesis provide evidence for the evolutionary origins of oleoresin and permit consideration of genetic engineering strategies to improve conifer defenses as a component of modern forest biotechnology.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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