How does cat mint maintain its “cat-sucking physique”?

Always sneezing, chewing, rubbing, rolling, howling, holding the front paws tight, chasing imaginary mice, sitting “dry stares” … These are the reactions that a cat might have reacted to after it “stomped” the cat’s mint. Cat mint attracts cats because of an ingredient, Nepetal.

Recently, a team of researchers from York University, Purdue University, University of Florida, Michigan State University, and the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology in Germany have discovered the life of jing mustard.

On May 13, 2020, the team’s paper entitled The evolutionary origins of the cat attractant nepetalactone (the evolutionary origin of the feline seduction agent jing mustard neetrils) was published online in Science Advances.

How does cat mint attract cats?

Cat mint has a long history, having first acquired a name in 1753 in the book “Species Plantarum” by Swedish biologist Carl von Linn?.

In fact, there are many names for cat mint, such as camphor, cool mint, barato, mint, mint, fennel, small jing mustard, fennel and so on, for a nepeta genus, lip-shaped plant.

As can be seen from the name, cat mint has a unique attraction to cats. In fact, it is not only cats, tigers, leopards, jaguars ( jaguars), cheetahs, ferrets and other cats are basically affected by this plant, hallucinations.

It is understood that cat mint in avoiding the isolation and depression of cats, relieve the cat stress has a certain positive role. So there are a lot of cat toys filled with cat mint on the market, and cat-eating cat mint also helps them to vomit the hairballs they can’t digest in their stomachs, but the real purpose of cat mint is to repell on insects.

In cat mint, a volatile metabolite called Nepetaldoline, which looks like a white powder crystal, is the main ingredient that excites cats.

The procedures in which cat mint affects cats are roughly:

In the cat’s olfactory epithelial, the jing mustard ester binds to one or more olfactory receptors, so the amygdala in the brain is activated to convert into behavioral signals that also regulate the cat’s neuroendocrine response through the pituitary glands through the hypothalamus.

The following image shows the volatile jing mustard inthe genus Jing mustard three-dimensional isomer.

The chemical, jing mustard, which was first isolated by steam distillation in 1941, is a volatile cycloede (iridoid) produced by cat mint.

Cat Mint’s “Pre-Life”

It is worth noting that green plants (including fungi) comprise a total of 12 major grades (orders) under international plant naming regulations. These include Family and Genus, which belong to the Section, and a section that contains one or more genus.

Jing mustard afewology includes many of our common plants, such as basil, rosemary and mint.

As shown in the figure below, the researchers found that cyclolee ether was present in many lip-shaped plants, but at one point disappeared during the evolution of the Nepetoideae, a subspecies of jing mustard, but then reappeared, mainly in the form of volatile gin.

One exception is the genus Jing mustard, or cat mint – that is, cat mint has always been able to produce jing mustard internal esters, and some of its “close relatives” have the appearance of the disappearance of the jing mustard esters.

Based on this finding, the team used comparative genomics, ancestral sequence reconstruction and systematic development altogether to explore the biosynthesis of cycloethane in the genus Jing mustard.

Specifically, the researchers genetically sequenced two types of cat mint and bovine knee grass (Hyssopus of ficinalis, which does not produce any cycloed ether, including mustard.

Finally, this study found evidence of the events leading to the biosynthesis of jing mustard and its metabolic gene clusters (lost cyclene ether 55-65 million years ago), and also revealed the loss-reevolution mechanism of cycloedee terpene in the jing mustard lineage.

The researchers found that about 20 million years ago, an ancestor of the mustard plant began to evolve two enzymes, ISY and NEPS, which are responsible for producing the mustard molecules only in cat mint, not in any “close relative” plant.

As Benjamin Lichman of the University of York, the first author of the paper, put it:

We found an unusual set of enzymes that produce the molecules of the mustard neeter. These enzymes have unique evolutionary mechanisms in cat mint only. When we first saw the genome sequence of cat mint, we realized that the important genes we assumed played role in the formation of the jing mustard ester were adjacent to the genome.

It is worth mentioning that the genus Jing mustard has become an important model for the study of the loss-reevolution of a class of major defensive compounds, and this study also provides insights into the interaction sons and effects of enzyme and genomic evolution in the origin, disappearance and re-emergence of plant chemistry diversity.

As Sarah O’Connor, head of the Department of Natural Products Biosynthesis at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany, puts it:

This provides a good example for the study of plant diversity evolution. We are now trying to artificially change the chemical composition of the jing mustard genus. This will help us understand whether we have a complete understanding of all the ways in which plants evolved and the ecological function of the jingmust eeste. This, in turn, can help us uncover the bioselective pressures that lead to this process. In addition, we are looking for other plants that produce unusual cycloene ether.