Identification of the Bombyx Red Egg gene reveals involvement of a novel transporter family gene in late steps of the insect ommochrome biosynthesis pathway

Mizuko Osanai-Futahashi, Ken Ichiro Tatematsu, Kimiko Yamamoto, Junko Narukawa, Keiro Uchino, Takumi Kayukawa, Tetsuro Shinoda, Yutaka Banno, Toshiki Tamura, Hideki Sezutsu

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Ommochromes are one of the major pigments involved in coloration of eggs, eyes, and body surface of insects. However, the molecular mechanisms of the final steps of ommochrome pigment synthesis have been largely unknown. The eggs of the silkworm Bombyx mori contain a mixture of ommochrome pigments, and exhibit a brownish lilac color. The recessive homozygous of egg and eye color mutant, red egg (re), whose eggs display a pale orange color instead of normal dark coloration, has been long suggested to have a defect in the biosynthesis of the final ommochrome pigments. Here, we identify the gene responsible for the re locus by positional cloning, mutant analysis, and RNAi experiments. In the re mutants, we found that a 541-bp transposable element is inserted into the ORF of BGIBMGA003497-1 (Bm-re) encoding a novel member of a major facilitator superfamily transporter, causing disruption of the splicing of exon 9, resulting in two aberrant transcripts with frameshifts yielding nonfunctional proteins lacking the C-terminal transmembrane domains. Bm-re function in pigmentation was confirmed by embryonic RNAi experiments. Homologs of the Bm-re gene were found in all insect genomes sequenced at present, except for 12 sequenced Drosophila genomes, which seemed to correlate with the previous studies that have demonstrated that eye ommochrome composition is different from other insects in several Dipterans. Knockdown of the Bm-re homolog by RNAi in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum caused adult compound eye coloration defects, indicating a conserved role in ommochrome pigment biosynthesis at least among holometabolous insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17706-17714
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - May 18 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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