A variety of insects accumulate high contents of riboflavin (vitamin B2) in their Malpighian tubules (MTs). Although this process is known to be genetically controlled, the mechanism is not known. In the 1940s and the 1950s, several studies showed that riboflavin contents were low in the MTs of some Bombyx mori (silkworm) mutants with translucent larval skin mutations (e.g., w-3, od, oa, and otm) and that genes responsible for these translucent mutations also affected riboflavin accumulation in the MTs. Since the 2000s, it has been shown that the w-3 gene encodes an ABC transporter, whereas genes responsible for od, oa, and otm mutations encode for the biogenesis of lysosome-related organelles. These findings suggest that some genes of ABC transporters and biogenesis of lysosome-related organelles may control the accumulation of riboflavin in MTs. Therefore, we reexamined the effects that translucent mutations have on the accumulation of riboflavin in MTs by using the translucent and wild-type segregants in mutant strains to measure the specific effect that each gene has on riboflavin accumulation (independent of genomic background). We used nine translucent mutations (w-3oe, oa, od, otm, Obs, oy, or, oh, and obt) even though the genes responsible for some of these mutations (Obs, oy, or, oh, and obt) have not yet been isolated. Through observation of larval MTs and measurements of riboflavin content using high-performance liquid chromatography, we found that the oa, od, otm, and or mutations were responsible for low contents of riboflavin in MTs, whereas the Obs and oy mutations did not affect riboflavin accumulation. This indicates that the molecular mechanism for riboflavin accumulation is similar but somewhat different than the mechanism responsible for uric acid accumulation in epidermal cells. We found that the genes responsible for oa, od, and otm mutations were consistent with those already established for uric acid accumulation in larval epidermis. This suggests that these three genes control riboflavin accumulation in MTs through a mechanism similar to that of uric acid accumulation, although we do not yet know why the or mutation also controls riboflavin accumulation.
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