During nitrogen metabolism, animals convert toxic ammonia to less toxic forms. Uric acid (UA) is an end product of this process in terrestrial insects. In lepidopteran larvae, a large amount of UA is stored in the integument via a phenomenon known as storage excretion. Physiologically, integumental UA plays crucial roles as a barrier against sunlight and as a white pigment for larval pigmentation patterns. Conventionally, UA is thought to be synthesized in the fat body, the insect equivalent of the liver of vertebrates, and to be transported to the epidermis via the hemolymph. Here, we reconsidered the conventional theory by a mosaic analysis targeting genes governing UA synthesis, using CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis and a traditional genetic method in Bombyx mori. Notably, we observed mosaic larvae in which the integument comprised both UA-containing white and UA-lacking translucent areas, indicating that UA synthesis in the epidermis is indispensable to the accumulation of a large amount of highly insoluble UA in the epidermis. Our results thus provide a genetic basis for storage excretion wherein lepidopteran insects use nitrogenous waste to adapt to their environment.
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