Publications by authors named "Subbaratnam Muthukrishnan"

69 Publications

Insect Cuticular Chitin Contributes to Form and Function.

Curr Pharm Des 2020 ;26(29):3530-3545

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, Korea.

Chitin contributes to the rigidity of the insect cuticle and serves as an attachment matrix for other cuticular proteins. Deficiency of chitin results in abnormal embryos, cuticular structural defects and growth arrest. When chitin is not turned over during molting, the developing insect is trapped inside the old cuticle. Partial deacetylation of cuticular chitin is also required for proper laminar organization of the cuticle and vertical pore canals, molting, and locomotion. Thus, chitin and its modifications strongly influence the structure of the exoskeleton as well as the physiological functions of the insect. Internal tendons and specialized epithelial cells called "tendon cells" that arise from the outer layer of epidermal cells provide attachment sites at both ends of adult limb muscles. Membrane processes emanating from both tendon and muscle cells interdigitate extensively to strengthen the attachment of muscles to the extracellular matrix (ECM). Protein ligands that bind to membrane-bound integrin complexes further enhance the adhesion between muscles and tendons. Tendon cells contain F-actin fiber arrays that contribute to their rigidity. In the cytoplasm of muscle cells, proteins such as talin and other proteins provide attachment sites for cytoskeletal actin, thereby increasing integrin binding and activation to mechanically couple the ECM with actin in muscle cells. Mutations in integrins and their ligands, as well as depletion of chitin deacetylases, result in defective locomotion and muscle detachment from the ECM. Thus, chitin in the cuticle and chitin deacetylases strongly influence the shape and functions of the exoskeleton as well as locomotion of insects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/1381612826666200523175409DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7755156PMC
January 2021

Yellow-g and Yellow-g2 proteins are required for egg desiccation resistance and temporal pigmentation in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2020 07 18;122:103386. Epub 2020 Apr 18.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, 500-757, South Korea. Electronic address:

Eggs from Aedes mosquitoes exhibit desiccation resistance that helps them to survive and spread as human disease vectors throughout the world. Previous studies have suggested that eggshell/chorion melanization and/or serosal cuticle formation are important for desiccation resistance. In this study, using dsRNAs for target genes, we analyzed the functional importance of two ovary-specific yellow genes, AalY-g and AalY-g2, in the resistance to egg desiccation of the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, a species in which neither the timing of the melanization nor temporal development of the serosal cuticle is correlated with desiccation resistance. Injections of dsAalY-g, dsAalY-g2 or dsAalY-g/g2 (co-injection) into adult females have no effect on their fecundity. However, initial melanization is delayed by 1-2 h with the eggshells eventually becoming black similar to that observed in eggs from dsEGFP-injected control females. In addition, the shape of the eggs from dsAalY-g, -g2 and -g/g2-treated females is abnormally crescent-shaped and the outermost exochorion is more fragile and partially peeled off. dsEGFP control eggs, like those from the wild-type strain, acquire resistance to desiccation between 18 and 24 h after oviposition (HAO). In contrast, ~80% of the 24 HAO dsAalY-g and dsAalY-g2 eggs collapse when they are transferred to a low humidity environment. In addition, there is no electron-dense outer endochorion evident in either dsAalY-g or dsAalY-g2 eggs. These results support the hypothesis that AalY-g and AalY-g2 regulate the timing of eggshell darkening and are required for integrity of the exochorion as well as for rigidity, normal morphology and formation of the outer endochorion, a structure that apparently is critical for desiccation resistance of the Ae. albopictus egg.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2020.103386DOI Listing
July 2020

Gene functions in adult cuticle pigmentation of the yellow mealworm, Tenebrio molitor.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2020 02 5;117:103291. Epub 2019 Dec 5.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, 500-757, South Korea. Electronic address:

In many arthropod species including insects, the cuticle tanning pathway for both pigmentation and sclerotization begins with tyrosine and is responsible for production of both melanin- and quinoid-type pigments, some of which are major pigments for body coloration. In this study we identified and cloned cDNAs of the yellow mealworm, Tenebrio molitor, encoding seven key enzymes involved in this pathway including tyrosine hydroxylase (TmTH), DOPA decarboxylase (TmDDC), laccase 2 (TmLac2), Yellow-y (TmY-y), arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (TmAANAT1), aspartate 1-decarboxylase (TmADC) and N-β-alanyldopamine synthase (Tmebony). Expression profiles of these genes during development were analyzed by real-time PCR, revealing development-specific patterns of expression. Loss of function mediated by RNAi of either 1) TmTH or TmLac2, 2) TmDDC or TmY-y, and 3) TmAANAT1, TmADC or Tmebony resulted in pale/white, light yellow/brown and dark/black adult body coloration, respectively. In addition, there are three distinct layer/regional pigmentation differences in rigid types of adult cuticle, a brownish outer exocuticle (EX), a dark pigmented middle mesocuticle (ME) and a transparent inner endocuticle (EN). Decreases in pigmentation of the EX and/or ME layers were observed after RNAi of TmDDC or TmY-y. In TmADC- or Tmebony-deficient adults, a darker pigmented EX layer was observed. In TmAANAT1-deficient adults, trabeculae formed between the dorsal and ventral elytral cuticles as well as the transparent EN layer became highly pigmented. These results demonstrate that knocking down the level of gene expression of specific enzymes of this tyrosine metabolic pathway leads to abnormal pigmentation in individual layers and substructure of the rigid adult exoskeleton of T. molitor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2019.103291DOI Listing
February 2020

Chitin Organizing and Modifying Enzymes and Proteins Involved In Remodeling of the Insect Cuticle.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2019 ;1142:83-114

School of Bioengineering, Dalian University of Technology, No. 2 Linggong Road, Dalian, 116023, China.

Chitin, the extracellular matrix polysaccharide of insects and arthropods is widely distributed in nature in all kingdoms of life and serves a variety of functions. After synthesis by membrane-bound chitin synthases, it is extensively remodeled before incorporation into divergent matrices with wide-ranging physical and biological properties. This chapter discusses the properties of a variety of insect enzymes and proteins involved in this process. Chitin remodeling involves chitin synthases, which make the nascent chitin chains, and chitin deacetylases that partially deacetylate some of the N-acetylglucosamine residues either randomly or sequentially to yield local chitosan-like regions. Other proteins secreted into the procuticle or the midgut help in the assembly of single chitin chains into larger crystalline aggregates that measure in a few 100 nanometers. They are further embedded in a complex matrix of cuticular proteins or become associated with proteins containing chitin-binding domains to constitute the laminar procuticle or the lattice-like peritrophic matrix. During molting, previously formed laminar cuticle or PM are decrystallized/depolymerized to unmask the chitin chains, which then are degraded by a mixture of chitinolytic enzymes consisting of chitinases and N-acetylglucosaminidases present in molting fluid or in gut secretions. Some of the degradation products may be recycled for the synthesis of new matrices. We present a model of chitin synthesis, assembly, and degradation and the roles of these chitin-remodeling enzymes in this overall process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-7318-3_5DOI Listing
August 2019

A chitinase with two catalytic domains is required for organization of the cuticular extracellular matrix of a beetle.

PLoS Genet 2018 03 28;14(3):e1007307. Epub 2018 Mar 28.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, South Korea.

Insect cuticle or exoskeleton is an extracellular matrix formed primarily from two different structural biopolymers, chitin and protein. During each molt cycle, a new cuticle is deposited simultaneously with degradation of the inner part of the chitinous procuticle of the overlying old exoskeleton by molting fluid enzymes including epidermal chitinases. In this study we report a novel role for an epidermal endochitinase containing two catalytic domains, TcCHT7, from the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, in organizing chitin in the newly forming cuticle rather than in degrading chitin present in the prior one. Recombinant TcCHT7 expressed in insect cells is membrane-bound and capable of hydrolyzing an extracellular chitin substrate, whereas in vivo, this enzyme is also released from the plasma membrane and co-localizes with chitin in the entire procuticle. RNAi of TcCHT7 reveals that this enzyme is nonessential for any type of molt or degradation of the chitinous matrix in the old cuticle. In contrast, TcCHT7 is required for maintaining the integrity of the cuticle as a compact structure of alternating electron-dense and electron-lucent laminae. There is a reduction in thickness of elytral and leg cuticles after RNAi for TcCHT7. TcCHT7 is also required for formation of properly oriented long chitin fibers inside pore canals that are vertically oriented columnar structures, which contribute to the mechanical strength of a light-weight, yet rigid, adult cuticle. The conservation of CHT7-like proteins harboring such a unique domain configuration among many insect and other arthropod species indicates a critical role for the group III class of chitinases in the higher ordered organization of chitin fibers for development of the structural integrity of many invertebrate exoskeletons.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1007307DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891080PMC
March 2018

Group I chitin deacetylases are essential for higher order organization of chitin fibers in beetle cuticle.

J Biol Chem 2018 05 22;293(18):6985-6995. Epub 2018 Mar 22.

From the Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, South Korea and

Roles in the organization of the cuticle (exoskeleton) of two chitin deacetylases (CDAs) belonging to group I, and , as well as two alternatively spliced forms of the latter, and , from the red flour beetle, , were examined in different body parts using transmission EM and RNAi. Even though all are co-expressed in cuticle-forming cells from the hardened forewing (elytron) and ventral abdomen, as well as in the softer hindwing and dorsal abdomen, there are significant differences in the tissue specificity of expression of the alternatively spliced transcripts. Loss of either TcCDA1 or TcCDA2 protein by RNAi causes abnormalities in organization of chitinous horizontal laminae and vertical pore canals in all regions of the procuticle of both the hard and soft cuticles. Simultaneous RNAi for and produces the most serious abnormalities. RNAi of either or affects cuticle integrity to some extent. Following RNAi, there is accumulation of smaller disorganized fibers in both the horizontal laminae and pore canals, indicating that TcCDAs play a critical role in elongation/organization of smaller nanofibers into longer fibers, which is essential for structural integrity of both hard/thick and soft/thin cuticles. Immunolocalization of TcCDA1 and TcCDA2 proteins and effects of RNAi on their accumulation indicate that these two proteins function in concert exclusively in the assembly zone in a step involving the higher order organization of the procuticle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.RA117.001454DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5936823PMC
May 2018

Future questions in insect chitin biology: A microreview.

Arch Insect Biochem Physiol 2018 Jun 25;98(2):e21454. Epub 2018 Feb 25.

Applied Zoology, TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany.

This microreview stems from the Second Symposium on Insect Molecular Toxicology and Chitin Metabolism held at Shanxi University in Taiyuan, China (June 27 to 30, 2017) at the institute for Applied Biology headed by Professor Enbo Ma and Professor Jianzhen Zhang.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/arch.21454DOI Listing
June 2018

Development and ultrastructure of the rigid dorsal and flexible ventral cuticles of the elytron of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2017 12 5;91:21-33. Epub 2017 Nov 5.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, South Korea. Electronic address:

Insect exoskeletons are composed of the cuticle, a biomaterial primarily formed from the linear and relatively rigid polysaccharide, chitin, and structural proteins. This extracellular material serves both as a skin and skeleton, protecting insects from environmental stresses and mechanical damage. Despite its rather limited compositional palette, cuticles in different anatomical regions or developmental stages exhibit remarkably diverse physicochemical and mechanical properties because of differences in chemical composition, molecular interactions and morphological architecture of the various layers and sublayers throughout the cuticle including the envelope, epicuticle and procuticle (exocuticle and endocuticle). Even though the ultrastructure of the arthropod cuticle has been studied rather extensively, its temporal developmental pattern, in particular, the synchronous development of the functional layers in different cuticles during a molt, is not well understood. The beetle elytron, which is a highly modified and sclerotized forewing, offers excellent advantages for such a study because it can be easily isolated at precise time points during development. In this study, we describe the morphogenesis of the dorsal and ventral cuticles of the elytron of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, during the period from the 0 d-old pupa to the 9 d-old adult. The deposition of exocuticle and mesocuticle is substantially different in the two cuticles. The dorsal cuticle is four-fold thicker than the ventral. Unlike the ventral cuticle, the dorsal contains a thicker exocuticle consisting of a large number of horizontal laminae and vertical pore canals with pore canal fibers and rib-like veins and bristles as well as a mesocuticle, lying right above the enodcuticle. The degree of sclerotization appears to be much greater in the dorsal cuticle. All of these differences result in a relatively thick and tanned rigid dorsal cuticle and a much thinner and less pigmented membrane-like ventral cuticle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2017.11.003DOI Listing
December 2017

Functional analysis of TcCTLP-5C, a chymotrypsin-like serine protease needed for molting in Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2017 07 15;86:20-28. Epub 2017 May 15.

Institute of Biology, University of Siegen, 57076 Siegen, Germany. Electronic address:

In a previous study, we have characterized a gene family encoding chymotrypsin-like proteases from the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum (TcCTLPs). We identified 14 TcCTLP genes that were predominantly expressed in the midgut, where they presumably function in digestion. Two genes (TcCTLP-6C and TcCTLP-5C), however, additionally showed considerable expression in the carcass, and RNAi studies demonstrated that they are required for molting (Broehan et al., 2010; Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol 40, 274-83). Thus, the enzyme has distinct functions in different physiological environments. To study molecular adaptations that facilitate enzyme function in different environments, we performed an in-depth analysis of the molecular and enzymatic properties of TcCTLP-5C We expressed different mutated versions of TcCTLP-5C in form of factor Xa activatable pro-enzymes in insect cells using a baculoviral expression system, and purified the recombinant proteins by affinity chromatography. By measuring and comparing the enzyme activities, we obtained information about the significance of single amino acid residues in motifs that determine substrate specificity and pH tolerance. Further, we showed that TcCTLP-5C is modified by N-glycosylation at amino acid position N137, which lies opposite to the catalytic cleft. Comparison of the enzymatic properties of non-glycosylated and glycosylated TcCTLP-5C versions showed that N-glycosylation decreases V (maximum velocity) and k (turnover) while leaving the K (specificity) unchanged. Thus, we provide evidence that N-glycosylation alters catalytic behavior by allosteric effects presumably due to altered structural dynamics as observed for chemically glycosylated enzymes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2017.05.002DOI Listing
July 2017

In Vitro and In Vivo Studies on the Structural Organization of Chs3 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Int J Mol Sci 2017 Mar 25;18(4). Epub 2017 Mar 25.

Department of Biology and Chemistry, University of Osnabrück, 49068 Osnabrück, Germany.

Chitin biosynthesis in yeast is accomplished by three chitin synthases (Chs) termed Chs1, Chs2 and Chs3, of which the latter accounts for most of the chitin deposited within the cell wall. While the overall structures of Chs1 and Chs2 are similar to those of other chitin synthases from fungi and arthropods, Chs3 lacks some of the C-terminal transmembrane helices raising questions regarding its structure and topology. To fill this gap of knowledge, we performed bioinformatic analyses and protease protection assays that revealed significant information about the catalytic domain, the chitin-translocating channel and the interfacial helices in between. In particular, we identified an amphipathic, crescent-shaped α-helix attached to the inner side of the membrane that presumably controls the channel entrance and a finger helix pushing the polymer into the channel. Evidence has accumulated in the past years that chitin synthases form oligomeric complexes, which may be necessary for the formation of chitin nanofibrils. However, the functional significance for living yeast cells has remained elusive. To test Chs3 oligomerization in vivo, we used bimolecular fluorescence complementation. We detected oligomeric complexes at the bud neck, the lateral plasma membrane, and in membranes of Golgi vesicles, and analyzed their transport route using various trafficking mutants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms18040702DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412288PMC
March 2017

Arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase 1 gene (TcAANAT1) is required for cuticle morphology and pigmentation of the adult red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2016 12 2;79:119-129. Epub 2016 Nov 2.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, South Korea. Electronic address:

In the insect cuticle tanning pathway (sclerotization and pigmentation), the enzyme arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) catalyzes the acetylation of dopamine to form N-acetyldopamine (NADA), which is one of the major precursors for quinone-mediated tanning. In this study we characterized and investigated the function of TcAANAT1 in cuticle pigmentation of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. We isolated a full length TcAANAT1 cDNA that encodes a protein of 256 amino acid residues with a predicted GCN5-related acetyltransferase domain containing an acetyl-CoA binding motif. TcAANAT1 transcripts were detected at all stages of development with lowest expressions at the embryonic and pharate pupal stages. We expressed and purified the encoded recombinant TcAANAT1 protein (rTcAANAT1) that exhibited highest activity at slightly basic pH values (for example, pH 7.5 to 8.5 using dopamine as the substrate). In addition, rTcAANAT1 acts on a wide range of substrates including tryptamine, octopamine and norepinephrine with similar substrate affinities with K values in the range of 0.05-0.11 mM except for tyramine (K = 0.56 mM). Loss of function of TcAANAT1 caused by RNAi had no effect on larval and pupal development. The tanning of pupal setae, gin traps and urogomphi proceeded normally. However, the resulting adults (∼70%) exhibited a roughened exoskeletal surface, separated elytra and improperly folded hindwings. The body wall, elytra and veins of the hindwing of the mature adults were significantly darker than those of control insects probably due to the accumulation of dopamine melanin. A dark pigmentation surrounding the bristles located on the inter-veins of the elytron was evident primarily because of the underlying darkly pigmented trabeculae that partition the dorsal and ventral layers of the elytron. These results support the hypothesis that TcAANAT1 acetylates dopamine and plays a role in development of the morphology and pigmentation of T. castaneum adult cuticle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.10.013DOI Listing
December 2016

Cuticle formation and pigmentation in beetles.

Curr Opin Insect Sci 2016 10 12;17:1-9. Epub 2016 May 12.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 61186, Republic of Korea. Electronic address:

Adult beetles (Coleoptera) are covered primarily by a hard exoskeleton or cuticle. For example, the beetle elytron is a cuticle-rich highly modified forewing structure that shields the underlying hindwing and dorsal body surface from a variety of harmful environmental factors by acting as an armor plate. The elytron comes in a variety of colors and shapes depending on the coleopteran species. As in many other insect species, the cuticular tanning pathway begins with tyrosine and is responsible for production of a variety of melanin-like and other types of pigments. Tanning metabolism involves quinones and quinone methides, which also act as protein cross-linking agents for cuticle sclerotization. Electron microscopic analyses of rigid cuticles of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, have revealed not only numerous horizontal chitin-protein laminae but also vertically oriented columnar structures called pore canal fibers. This structural architecture together with tyrosine metabolism for cuticle tanning is likely to contribute to the rigidity and coloration of the beetle exoskeleton.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cois.2016.05.004DOI Listing
October 2016

Multifaceted biological insights from a draft genome sequence of the tobacco hornworm moth, Manduca sexta.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2016 09 12;76:118-147. Epub 2016 Aug 12.

Centre of Systems Biology, Biomedical Research Foundation, Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece.

Manduca sexta, known as the tobacco hornworm or Carolina sphinx moth, is a lepidopteran insect that is used extensively as a model system for research in insect biochemistry, physiology, neurobiology, development, and immunity. One important benefit of this species as an experimental model is its extremely large size, reaching more than 10 g in the larval stage. M. sexta larvae feed on solanaceous plants and thus must tolerate a substantial challenge from plant allelochemicals, including nicotine. We report the sequence and annotation of the M. sexta genome, and a survey of gene expression in various tissues and developmental stages. The Msex_1.0 genome assembly resulted in a total genome size of 419.4 Mbp. Repetitive sequences accounted for 25.8% of the assembled genome. The official gene set is comprised of 15,451 protein-coding genes, of which 2498 were manually curated. Extensive RNA-seq data from many tissues and developmental stages were used to improve gene models and for insights into gene expression patterns. Genome wide synteny analysis indicated a high level of macrosynteny in the Lepidoptera. Annotation and analyses were carried out for gene families involved in a wide spectrum of biological processes, including apoptosis, vacuole sorting, growth and development, structures of exoskeleton, egg shells, and muscle, vision, chemosensation, ion channels, signal transduction, neuropeptide signaling, neurotransmitter synthesis and transport, nicotine tolerance, lipid metabolism, and immunity. This genome sequence, annotation, and analysis provide an important new resource from a well-studied model insect species and will facilitate further biochemical and mechanistic experimental studies of many biological systems in insects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.07.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010457PMC
September 2016

Biosynthesis, Turnover, and Functions of Chitin in Insects.

Annu Rev Entomol 2016 ;61:177-96

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506; email: ,

Chitin is a major component of the exoskeleton and the peritrophic matrix of insects. It forms complex structures in association with different assortments of cuticle and peritrophic matrix proteins to yield biocomposites with a wide range of physicochemical and mechanical properties. The growth and development of insects are intimately coupled with the biosynthesis, turnover, and modification of chitin. The genes encoding numerous enzymes of chitin metabolism and proteins that associate with and organize chitin have been uncovered by bioinformatics analyses. Many of these proteins are encoded by sets of large gene families. There is specialization among members within each family, which function in particular tissues or developmental stages. Chitin-containing matrices are dynamically modified at every developmental stage and are under developmental and/or physiological control. A thorough understanding of the diverse processes associated with the assembly and turnover of these chitinous matrices offers many strategies to achieve selective pest control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-010715-023933DOI Listing
December 2016

Cuticular protein with a low complexity sequence becomes cross-linked during insect cuticle sclerotization and is required for the adult molt.

Sci Rep 2015 May 21;5:10484. Epub 2015 May 21.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, Korea.

In the insect cuticle, structural proteins (CPs) and the polysaccharide chitin are the major components. It has been hypothesized that CPs are cross-linked to other CPs and possibly to chitin by quinones or quinone methides produced by the laccase2-mediated oxidation of N-acylcatechols. In this study we investigated functions of TcCP30, the third most abundant CP in protein extracts of elytra (wing covers) from Tribolium castaneum adults. The mature TcCP30 protein has a low complexity and highly polar amino acid sequence. TcCP30 is localized with chitin in horizontal laminae and vertically oriented columnar structures in rigid cuticles, but not in soft and membranous cuticles. Immunoblot analysis revealed that TcCP30 undergoes laccase2-mediated cross-linking during cuticle maturation in vivo, a process confirmed in vitro using recombinant rTcCP30. We identified TcCPR27 and TcCPR18, the two most abundant proteins in the elytra, as putative cross-linking partners of TcCP30. RNAi for the TcCP30 gene had no effect on larval and pupal growth and development. However, during adult eclosion, ~70% of the adults were unable to shed their exuvium and died. These results support the hypothesis that TcCP30 plays an integral role as a cross-linked structural protein in the formation of lightweight rigid cuticle of the beetle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep10484DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440208PMC
May 2015

Knickkopf and retroactive proteins are required for formation of laminar serosal procuticle during embryonic development of Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2015 May 4;60:1-6. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Kansas State University, 141 Chalmers Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA.

Chitin, a homopolymer of β-1-4-linked N-acetylglucosamine synthesized by chitin synthase A (Chs-A), is organized in the procuticle of the postembryonic cuticle or exoskeleton, which is composed of laminae stacked parallel to the cell surface to give stability and integrity to the underlying insect epidermal and other tissues. Our previous work has revealed an important role for two proteins from Tribolium castaneum named Knickkopf (TcKnk) and Retroactive (TcRtv) in postembryonic cuticular chitin maintenance. TcKnk and TcRtv were shown to be required for protection and organization of newly synthesized procuticular chitin. To study the functions of TcKnk and TcRtv in serosal and larval cuticles produced during embryogenesis in T. castaneum, dsRNAs specific for these two genes were injected into two week-old adult females. The effects of dsRNA treatment on ovarial integrity, oviposition, egg hatching and adult survival were determined. Insects treated with dsRNA for chitin synthase-A (TcChs-A) and tryptophan oxygenase (TcVer) were used as positive and negative controls for these experiments, respectively. Like TcChs-A RNAi, injection of dsRNA for TcKnk or TcRtv into adult females exhibited no adult lethality and oviposition was normal. However, a vast majority of the embryos did not hatch. The remaining (∼10%) of the embryos hatched into first instar larvae that died without molting to the second instar. Chitin content analysis following TcKnk and TcRtv parental RNAi revealed approximately 50% reduction in chitin content of eggs in comparison with control TcVer RNAi, whereas TcChs-A dsRNA-treatment led to >90% loss of chitin. Furthermore, transmission electron microscopic (TEM) analysis of serosal cuticle from TcChs-A, TcKnk and TcRtv dsRNA-treated insects revealed a complete absence of laminar organization of serosal (and larval) procuticle in comparison with TcVer dsRNA-treated controls, which exhibited normal laminar organization of procuticular chitin. The results of this study demonstrate that in addition to their essential roles in maintenance and organization of chitin in epidermal cuticle in larval and later stages of insect development, TcKnk and TcRtv also are required for egg hatch, chitin maintenance and laminar organization of both serosal and larval cuticle during embryonic development of T. castaneum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.02.013DOI Listing
May 2015

Tribolium castaneum RR-1 cuticular protein TcCPR4 is required for formation of pore canals in rigid cuticle.

PLoS Genet 2015 Feb 9;11(2):e1004963. Epub 2015 Feb 9.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, Korea.

Insect cuticle is composed mainly of structural proteins and the polysaccharide chitin. The CPR family is the largest family of cuticle proteins (CPs), which can be further divided into three subgroups based on the presence of one of the three presumptive chitin-binding sequence motifs denoted as Rebers-Riddiford (R&R) consensus sequence motifs RR-1, RR-2 and RR-3. The TcCPR27 protein containing the RR-2 motif is one of the most abundant CPs present both in the horizontal laminae and in vertical pore canals in the procuticle of rigid cuticle found in the elytron of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. Depletion of TcCPR27 by RNA interference (RNAi) causes both unorganized laminae and pore canals, resulting in malformation and weakening of the elytron. In this study, we investigated the function(s) of another CP, TcCPR4, which contains the RR-1 motif and is easily extractable from elytra after RNAi to deplete the level of TcCPR27. Transcript levels of the TcCPR4 gene are dramatically increased in 3 d-old pupae when adult cuticle synthesis begins. Immunohistochemical studies revealed that TcCPR4 protein is present in the rigid cuticles of the dorsal elytron, ventral abdomen and leg but not in the flexible cuticles of the hindwing and dorsal abdomen of adult T. castaneum. Immunogold labeling and transmission electron microscopic analyses revealed that TcCPR4 is predominantly localized in pore canals and regions around the apical plasma membrane protrusions into the procuticle of rigid adult cuticles. RNAi for TcCPR4 resulted in an abnormal shape of the pore canals with amorphous pore canal fibers (PCFs) in their lumen. These results support the hypothesis that TcCPR4 is required for achieving proper morphology of the vertical pore canals and PCFs that contribute to the assembly of a cuticle that is both lightweight and rigid.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004963DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335487PMC
February 2015

Overview of chitin metabolism enzymes in Manduca sexta: Identification, domain organization, phylogenetic analysis and gene expression.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2015 Jul 20;62:114-26. Epub 2015 Jan 20.

Department of Entomology, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456, USA. Electronic address:

Chitin is one of the most abundant biomaterials in nature. The biosynthesis and degradation of chitin in insects are complex and dynamically regulated to cope with insect growth and development. Chitin metabolism in insects is known to involve numerous enzymes, including chitin synthases (synthesis of chitin), chitin deacetylases (modification of chitin by deacetylation) and chitinases (degradation of chitin by hydrolysis). In this study, we conducted a genome-wide search and analysis of genes encoding these chitin metabolism enzymes in Manduca sexta. Our analysis confirmed that only two chitin synthases are present in M. sexta as in most other arthropods. Eleven chitin deacetylases (encoded by nine genes) were identified, with at least one representative in each of the five phylogenetic groups that have been described for chitin deacetylases to date. Eleven genes encoding for family 18 chitinases (GH18) were found in the M. sexta genome. Based on the presence of conserved sequence motifs in the catalytic sequences and phylogenetic relationships, two of the M. sexta chitinases did not cluster with any of the current eight phylogenetic groups of chitinases: two new groups were created (groups IX and X) and their characteristics are described. The result of the analysis of the Lepidoptera-specific chitinase-h (group h) is consistent with its proposed bacterial origin. By analyzing chitinases from fourteen species that belong to seven different phylogenetic groups, we reveal that the chitinase genes appear to have evolved sequentially in the arthropod lineage to achieve the current high level of diversity observed in M. sexta. Based on the sequence conservation of the catalytic domains and on their developmental stage- and tissue-specific expression, we propose putative functions for each group in each category of enzymes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.01.006DOI Listing
July 2015

Loss of function of the yellow-e gene causes dehydration-induced mortality of adult Tribolium castaneum.

Dev Biol 2015 Mar 19;399(2):315-24. Epub 2015 Jan 19.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, Republic of Korea. Electronic address:

Yellow protein (dopachrome conversion enzyme, DCE) is involved in the melanin biosynthetic pathway that significantly accelerates pigmentation reactions in insects. Recent studies have suggested that the insect yellow genes represent a rapidly evolving gene family generating functionally diverse paralogs, but the exact physiological functions of several yellow genes are still not understood. To study the function(s) of one of the yellow genes, yellow-e (TcY-e), in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, we performed real-time PCR to analyze its developmental and tissue-specific expression, and utilized immunohistochemistry to identify the localization of the TcY-e protein in adult cuticle. Injection of double-stranded RNA for TcY-e (dsTcY-e) into late instar larvae had no effect on larval-pupal molting or pupal development. The pupal cuticle, including that lining the setae, gin traps and urogomphi, underwent normal tanning. Adult cuticle tanning including that of the head, mandibles and legs viewed through the translucent pupal cuticle was initiated on schedule (pupal days 4-5), indicating that TcY-e is not required for pupal or pharate adult cuticle pigmentation in T. castaneum. The subsequent pupal-adult molt, however, was adversely affected. Although pupal cuticle apolysis and slippage were evident, some of the adults (~25%) were unable to shed their exuvium and died entrapped in their pupal cuticle. In addition, the resulting adults rapidly became highly desiccated. Interestingly, both the failure of the pupal-adult molt and desiccation-induced mortality were prevented by maintaining the dsTcY-e-treated insects at 100% relative humidity (rh). However, when the high humidity-rescued adults were removed from 100% rh and transferred to 50% rh, they rapidly dehydrated and died, whereas untreated beetles thrived throughout development at 50% rh. We also observed that the body color of the high humidity-rescued dsTcY-e-adults was slightly darker than that of control animals. These results support the hypothesis that TcY-e has a role not only in normal body pigmentation in T. castaneum adults but also has a vital waterproofing function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.01.009DOI Listing
March 2015

Analysis of chitin-binding proteins from Manduca sexta provides new insights into evolution of peritrophin A-type chitin-binding domains in insects.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2015 Jul 15;62:127-41. Epub 2014 Dec 15.

Department of Entomology, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456, USA. Electronic address:

In insects, chitin is a major structural component of the cuticle and the peritrophic membrane (PM). In nature, chitin is always associated with proteins among which chitin-binding proteins (CBPs) are the most important for forming, maintaining and regulating the functions of these extracellular structures. In this study, a genome-wide search for genes encoding proteins with ChtBD2-type (peritrophin A-type) chitin-binding domains (CBDs) was conducted. A total of 53 genes encoding 56 CBPs were identified, including 15 CPAP1s (cuticular proteins analogous to peritrophins with 1 CBD), 11 CPAP3s (CPAPs with 3 CBDs) and 17 PMPs (PM proteins) with a variable number of CBDs, which are structural components of cuticle or of the PM. CBDs were also identified in enzymes of chitin metabolism including 6 chitinases and 7 chitin deacetylases encoded by 6 and 5 genes, respectively. RNA-seq analysis confirmed that PMP and CPAP genes have differential spatial expression patterns. The expression of PMP genes is midgut-specific, while CPAP genes are widely expressed in different cuticle forming tissues. Phylogenetic analysis of CBDs of proteins in insects belonging to different orders revealed that CPAP1s from different species constitute a separate family with 16 different groups, including 6 new groups identified in this study. The CPAP3s are clustered into a separate family of 7 groups present in all insect orders. Altogether, they reveal that duplication events of CBDs in CPAP1s and CPAP3s occurred prior to the evolutionary radiation of insect species. In contrast to the CPAPs, all CBDs from individual PMPs are generally clustered and distinct from other PMPs in the same species in phylogenetic analyses, indicating that the duplication of CBDs in each of these PMPs occurred after divergence of insect species. Phylogenetic analysis of these three CBP families showed that the CBDs in CPAP1s form a clearly separate family, while those found in PMPs and CPAP3s were clustered together in the phylogenetic tree. For chitinases and chitin deacetylases, most of phylogenetic analysis performed with the CBD sequences resulted in similar clustering to the one obtained by using catalytic domain sequences alone, suggesting that CBDs were incorporated into these enzymes and evolved in tandem with the catalytic domains before the diversification of different insect orders. Based on these results, the evolution of CBDs in insect CBPs is discussed to provide a new insight into the CBD sequence structure and diversity, and their evolution and expression in insects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.12.002DOI Listing
July 2015

Chitin is a necessary component to maintain the barrier function of the peritrophic matrix in the insect midgut.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2015 Jan 20;56:21-8. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Department of Biology, Chemistry, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück 49069, Germany. Electronic address:

In most insects, the peritrophic matrix (PM) partitions the midgut into different digestive compartments, and functions as a protective barrier against abrasive particles and microbial infections. In a previous study we demonstrated that certain PM proteins are essential in maintaining the PM's barrier function and establishing a gradient of PM permeability from the anterior to the posterior part of the midgut which facilitates digestion (Agrawal et al., 2014). In this study, we focused on the effects of a reduction in chitin content on PM permeability in larvae of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. Oral administration of the chitin synthesis inhibitor diflubenzuron (DFB) only partially reduced chitin content of the larval PM even at high concentrations. We observed no nutritional effects, as larval growth was unaffected and neutral lipids were not depleted from the fat body. However, the metamorphic molt was disrupted and the insects died at the pharate pupal stage, presumably due to DFB's effect on cuticle formation. RNAi to knock-down expression of the gene encoding chitin synthase 2 in T. castaneum (TcCHS-2) caused a complete loss of chitin in the PM. Larval growth was significantly reduced, and the fat body was depleted of neutral lipids. In situ PM permeability assays monitoring the distribution of FITC dextrans after DFB exposure or RNAi for TcCHS-2 revealed that PM permeability was increased in both cases. RNAi for TcCHS-2, however, led to a higher permeation of the PM by FITC dextrans than DFB treatment even at high doses. Similar effects were observed when the chitin content was reduced by feeding DFB to adult yellow fever mosquitos, Aedes aegypti. We demonstrate that the presence of chitin is necessary for maintaining the PM's barrier function in insects. It seems that the insecticidal effects of DFB are mediated by the disruption of cuticle synthesis during the metamorphic molt rather than by interfering with larval nutrition. However, as DFB clearly affects PM permeability, it may be suitable to increase the efficiency of pesticides targeting the midgut.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.11.005DOI Listing
January 2015

Functional specialization among members of Knickkopf family of proteins in insect cuticle organization.

PLoS Genet 2014 Aug 21;10(8):e1004537. Epub 2014 Aug 21.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, United States of America.

Our recent study on the functional analysis of the Knickkopf protein from T. castaneum (TcKnk), indicated a novel role for this protein in protection of chitin from degradation by chitinases. Knk is also required for the laminar organization of chitin in the procuticle. During a bioinformatics search using this protein sequence as the query, we discovered the existence of a small family of three Knk-like genes (including the prototypical TcKnk) in the T. castaneum genome as well as in all insects with completed genome assemblies. The two additional Knk-like genes have been named TcKnk2 and TcKnk3. Further complexity arises as a result of alternative splicing and alternative polyadenylation of transcripts of TcKnk3, leading to the production of three transcripts (and by inference, three proteins) from this gene. These transcripts are named TcKnk3-Full Length (TcKnk3-FL), TcKnk3-5' and TcKnk3-3'. All three Knk-family genes appear to have essential and non-redundant functions. RNAi for TcKnk led to developmental arrest at every molt, while down-regulation of either TcKnk2 or one of the three TcKnk3 transcripts (TcKnk3-3') resulted in specific molting arrest only at the pharate adult stage. All three Knk genes appear to influence the total chitin content at the pharate adult stage, but to variable extents. While TcKnk contributes mostly to the stability and laminar organization of chitin in the elytral and body wall procuticles, proteins encoded by TcKnk2 and TcKnk3-3' transcripts appear to be required for the integrity of the body wall denticles and tracheal taenidia, but not the elytral and body wall procuticles. Thus, the three members of the Knk-family of proteins perform different essential functions in cuticle formation at different developmental stages and in different parts of the insect anatomy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004537DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140639PMC
August 2014

Two major cuticular proteins are required for assembly of horizontal laminae and vertical pore canals in rigid cuticle of Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2014 Oct 18;53:22-9. Epub 2014 Jul 18.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, 300 Yongbong-dong, Buk-gu, Gwangju 500-757, Korea. Electronic address:

The insect exoskeleton is composed of cuticle primarily formed from structural cuticular proteins (CPs) and the polysaccharide chitin. Two CPs, TcCPR27 and TcCPR18, are major proteins present in the elytron (highly sclerotized and pigmented modified forewing) as well as the pronotum (dorsal sclerite of the prothorax) and ventral abdominal cuticle of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. Both CPs belong to the CPR family, which includes proteins that have an amino acid sequence motif known as the Rebers & Riddiford (R&R) consensus sequence. Injection of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) for TcCPR27 and TcCPR18 resulted in insects with shorter, wrinkled, warped and less rigid elytra than those from control insects. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the roles of CPs in cuticle assembly, we analyzed for the precise localization of TcCPR27 and the ultrastructural architecture of cuticle in TcCPR27- and TcCPR18-deficient elytra. Transmission electron microscopic analysis combined with immunodetection using gold-labeled secondary antibody revealed that TcCPR27 is present in dorsal elytral procuticle both in the horizontal laminae and in vertical pore canals. dsRNA-mediated RNA interference (RNAi) of TcCPR27 resulted in abnormal electron-lucent laminae and pore canals in elytra except for the boundary between these two structures in which electron-dense molecule(s) apparently accumulated. Insects subjected to RNAi for TcCPR18 also had disorganized laminae and pore canals in the procuticle of elytra. Similar ultrastructural defects were also observed in other body wall regions with rigid cuticle such as the thorax and legs of adult T. castaneum. TcCPR27 and TcCPR18 are required for proper formation of the horizontal chitinous laminae and vertical pore canals that are critical for formation and stabilization of rigid adult cuticle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.07.005DOI Listing
October 2014

A Major Facilitator Superfamily protein encoded by TcMucK gene is not required for cuticle pigmentation, growth and development in Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2014 Jun 28;49:43-8. Epub 2014 Mar 28.

Department of Applied Biology, Chonnam National University, 300 Yongbong-dong, Buk-gu, Gwangju 500-757, Republic of Korea. Electronic address:

Insect cuticle pigmentation and sclerotization (tanning) are vital physiological processes for insect growth, development and survival. We have previously identified several colorless precursor molecules as well as enzymes involved in their biosynthesis and processing to yield the mature intensely colored body cuticle pigments. A recent study indicated that the Bombyx mori (silkmoth) gene, BmMucK, which encodes a protein orthologous to a Culex pipiens quiquefasciatus (Southern house mosquito) cis,cis, muconate transporter, is a member of the "Major Facilitator Superfamily" (MFS) of transporter proteins and is associated with the appearance of pigmented body segments of naturally occurring body color mutants of B. mori. While RNA interference of the BmMucK gene failed to result in any observable phenotype, RNAi using a dsRNA for an orthologous gene from the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, was reported to result in molting defects and darkening of the cuticle and some body parts, leading to the suggestion that orthologs of MucK genes may differ in their functions among insects. To verify the role and essentiality of the ortholog of this gene in development and body pigmentation function in T. castaneum we obtained cDNAs for the orthologous gene (TcMucK) from RNA isolated from the GA-1 wild-type strain of T. castaneum. The sequence of a 1524 nucleotides-long cDNA for TcMucK which encodes the putatively full-length protein, was assembled from two overlapping RT-PCR fragments and the expression profile of this gene during development was analyzed by real-time PCR. This cDNA encodes a 55.8 kDa protein consisting of 507 amino acid residues and includes 11 putative transmembrane segments. Transcripts of TcMucK were detected throughout all of the developmental stages analyzed. The function of this gene was explored by injection of two different double-stranded RNAs targeting different regions of the TcMucK gene (dsTcMucKs) into young larvae to down-regulate transcripts during subsequent stages of insect development until the adult stage. RNA interference of TcMucK had no observable effects on larval, pupal or adult pigmentation. In addition, it did not affect larval-larval, larval-pupal and pupal-adult molting or survival. Thus, in contrast to the results of Zhao et al. (2012), our study demonstrates that TcMucK is not essential for growth, development or cuticle pigmentation of T. castaneum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.03.007DOI Listing
June 2014

Two essential peritrophic matrix proteins mediate matrix barrier functions in the insect midgut.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2014 Jun 26;49:24-34. Epub 2014 Mar 26.

Department of Biology, Chemistry, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück 49069, Germany. Electronic address:

The peritrophic matrix (PM) in the midgut of insects consists primarily of chitin and proteins and is thought to support digestion and provide protection from abrasive food particles and enteric pathogens. We examined the physiological roles of 11 putative peritrophic matrix protein (PMP) genes of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum (TcPMPs). TcPMP genes are differentially expressed along the length of the midgut epithelium of feeding larvae. RNAi of individual PMP genes revealed no abnormal developmental phenotypes for 9 of the 11 TcPMPs. However, RNAi for two PMP genes, TcPMP3 and TcPMP5-B, resulted in depletion of the fat body, growth arrest, molting defects and mortality. In situ permeability assays after oral administration of different-sized FITC-dextran beads demonstrated that the exclusion size of the larval peritrophic matrix (PM) decreases progressively from >2 MDa to <4 kDa from the anterior to the most posterior regions of the midgut. In the median midguts of control larvae, 2 MDa dextrans were completely retained within the PM lumen, whereas after RNAi for TcPMP3 and TcPMP5-B, these dextrans penetrated the epithelium of the median midgut, indicating loss of structural integrity and barrier function of the larval PM. In contrast, RNAi for TcPMP5-B, but not RNAi for TcPMP3, resulted in breakdown of impermeability to 4 and 40 kDa dextrans in the PM of the posterior midgut. These results suggest that specific PMPs are involved in the regulation of PM permeability, and that a gradient of barrier function is essential for survival and fat body maintenance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.03.009DOI Listing
June 2014

A lepidopteran-specific gene family encoding valine-rich midgut proteins.

PLoS One 2013 29;8(11):e82015. Epub 2013 Nov 29.

Department of Biology, Chemistry, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany.

Many lepidopteran larvae are serious agricultural pests due to their feeding activity. Digestion of the plant diet occurs mainly in the midgut and is facilitated by the peritrophic matrix (PM), an extracellular sac-like structure, which lines the midgut epithelium and creates different digestive compartments. The PM is attracting increasing attention to control lepidopteran pests by interfering with this vital function. To identify novel PM components and thus potential targets for insecticides, we performed an immunoscreening with anti-PM antibodies using an expression library representing the larval midgut transcriptome of the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. We identified three cDNAs encoding valine-rich midgut proteins of M. sexta (MsVmps), which appear to be loosely associated with the PM. They are members of a lepidopteran-specific family of nine VMP genes, which are exclusively expressed in larval stages in M. sexta. Most of the MsVMP transcripts are detected in the posterior midgut, with the highest levels observed for MsVMP1. To obtain further insight into Vmp function, we expressed MsVMP1 in insect cells and purified the recombinant protein. Lectin staining and glycosidase treatment indicated that MsVmp1 is highly O-glycosylated. In line with results from qPCR, immunoblots revealed that MsVmp1 amounts are highest in feeding larvae, while MsVmp1 is undetectable in starving and molting larvae. Finally using immunocytochemistry, we demonstrated that MsVmp1 localizes to the cytosol of columnar cells, which secrete MsVmp1 into the ectoperitrophic space in feeding larvae. In starving and molting larvae, MsVmp1 is found in the gut lumen, suggesting that the PM has increased its permeability. The present study demonstrates that lepidopteran species including many agricultural pests have evolved a set of unique proteins that are not found in any other taxon and thus may reflect an important adaptation in the highly specialized lepidopteran digestive tract facing particular immune challenges.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0082015PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3843731PMC
August 2014

Retroactive maintains cuticle integrity by promoting the trafficking of Knickkopf into the procuticle of Tribolium castaneum.

PLoS Genet 2013 31;9(1):e1003268. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Department of Biochemistry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, United States of America.

Molting, or the replacement of the old exoskeleton with a new cuticle, is a complex developmental process that all insects must undergo to allow unhindered growth and development. Prior to each molt, the developing new cuticle must resist the actions of potent chitinolytic enzymes that degrade the overlying old cuticle. We recently disproved the classical dogma that a physical barrier prevents chitinases from accessing the new cuticle and showed that the chitin-binding protein Knickkopf (Knk) protects the new cuticle from degradation. Here we demonstrate that, in Tribolium castaneum, the protein Retroactive (TcRtv) is an essential mediator of this protective effect of Knk. TcRtv localizes within epidermal cells and specifically confers protection to the new cuticle against chitinases by facilitating the trafficking of TcKnk into the procuticle. Down-regulation of TcRtv resulted in entrapment of TcKnk within the epidermal cells and caused molting defects and lethality in all stages of insect growth, consistent with the loss of TcKnk function. Given the ubiquity of Rtv and Knk orthologs in arthropods, we propose that this mechanism of new cuticle protection is conserved throughout the phylum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1003268DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3561106PMC
May 2013

Gene families of cuticular proteins analogous to peritrophins (CPAPs) in Tribolium castaneum have diverse functions.

PLoS One 2012 21;7(11):e49844. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

Department of Biochemistry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, United States of America.

The functional characterization of an entire class of 17 genes from the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, which encode two families of Cuticular Proteins Analogous to Peritrophins (CPAPs) has been carried out. CPAP genes in T. castaneum are expressed exclusively in cuticle-forming tissues and have been classified into two families, CPAP1 and CPAP3, based on whether the proteins contain either one (CPAP1), or three copies (CPAP3) of the chitin-binding domain, ChtBD2, with its six characteristically spaced cysteine residues. Individual members of the TcCPAP1 and TcCPAP3 gene families have distinct developmental patterns of expression. Many of these proteins serve essential and non-redundant functions in maintaining the structural integrity of the cuticle in different parts of the insect anatomy. Three genes of the TcCPAP1 family and five genes of the TcCPAP3 family are essential for insect development, molting, cuticle integrity, proper locomotion or fecundity. RNA interference (RNAi) targeting TcCPAP1-C, TcCPAP1-H, TcCPAP1-J or TcCPAP3-C transcripts resulted in death at the pharate adult stage of development. RNAi for TcCPAP3-A1, TcCPAP3-B, TcCPAP3-D1 or TcCPAP3-D2 genes resulted in different developmental defects, including adult/embryonic mortality, abnormal elytra or hindwings, or an abnormal 'stiff-jointed' gait. These results provide experimental support for specialization in the functions of CPAP proteins in T. castaneum and a biological rationale for the conservation of CPAP orthologs in other orders of insects. This is the first comprehensive functional analysis of an entire class of cuticular proteins with one or more ChtBD2 domains in any insect species.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0049844PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3504105PMC
May 2013

Formation of rigid, non-flight forewings (elytra) of a beetle requires two major cuticular proteins.

PLoS Genet 2012 26;8(4):e1002682. Epub 2012 Apr 26.

Department of Biochemistry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, United States of America.

Insect cuticle is composed primarily of chitin and structural proteins. To study the function of structural cuticular proteins, we focused on the proteins present in elytra (modified forewings that become highly sclerotized and pigmented covers for the hindwings) of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. We identified two highly abundant proteins, TcCPR27 (10 kDa) and TcCPR18 (20 kDa), which are also present in pronotum and ventral abdominal cuticles. Both are members of the Rebers and Riddiford family of cuticular proteins and contain RR2 motifs. Transcripts for both genes dramatically increase in abundance at the pharate adult stage and then decline quickly thereafter. Injection of specific double-stranded RNAs for each gene into penultimate or last instar larvae had no effect on larval-larval, larval-pupal, or pupal-adult molting. The elytra of the resulting adults, however, were shorter, wrinkled, warped, fenestrated, and less rigid than those from control insects. TcCPR27-deficient insects could not fold their hindwings properly and died prematurely approximately one week after eclosion, probably because of dehydration. TcCPR18-deficient insects exhibited a similar but less dramatic phenotype. Immunolocalization studies confirmed the presence of TcCPR27 in the elytral cuticle. These results demonstrate that TcCPR27 and TcCPR18 are major structural proteins in the rigid elytral, dorsal thoracic, and ventral abdominal cuticles of the red flour beetle, and that both proteins are required for morphogenesis of the beetle's elytra.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1002682DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3343089PMC
September 2012

Genomic and proteomic studies on the effects of the insect growth regulator diflubenzuron in the model beetle species Tribolium castaneum.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2012 Apr 28;42(4):264-76. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

Department of Biology, University of Osnabrück, 49069 Osnabrück, Germany.

Several benzoylphenyl urea-derived insecticides such as diflubenzuron (DFB, Dimilin) are in wide use to control various insect pests. Although this class of compounds is known to disrupt molting and to affect chitin content, their precise mode of action is still not understood. To gain a broader insight into the mechanism underlying the insecticidal effects of benzoylphenyl urea compounds, we conducted a comprehensive study with the model beetle species and stored product pest Tribolium castaneum (red flour beetle) utilizing genomic and proteomic approaches. DFB was added to a wheat flour-based diet at various concentrations and fed to larvae and adults. We observed abortive molting, hatching defects and reduced chitin amounts in the larval cuticle, the peritrophic matrix and eggs. Electron microscopic examination of the larval cuticle revealed major structural changes and a loss of lamellate structure of the procuticle. We used a genomic tiling array for determining relative expression levels of about 11,000 genes predicted by the GLEAN algorithm. About 6% of all predicted genes were more than 2-fold up- or down-regulated in response to DFB treatment. Genes encoding enzymes involved in chitin metabolism were unexpectedly unaffected, but many genes encoding cuticle proteins were affected. In addition, several genes presumably involved in detoxification pathways were up-regulated. Comparative 2D gel electrophoresis of proteins extracted from the midgut revealed 388 protein spots, of which 7% were significantly affected in their levels by DFB treatment as determined by laser densitometry. Mass spectrometric identification revealed that UDP-N-acetylglucosamine pyrophosphorylase and glutathione synthetase were up-regulated. In summary, the red flour beetle turned out to be a good model organism for investigating the global effects of bioactive materials such as insect growth regulators and other insecticides. The results of this study recapitulate all of the different DFB-induced symptoms in a single model insect, which have been previously found in several different insect species, and further illustrate that DFB treatment causes a wide range of effects at the molecular level.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066571PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2011.12.008DOI Listing
April 2012