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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Insect chitin synthase cDNA sequence, gene organization and expression.

Chitin is a major component of the cuticle of arthropods. However, the synthesis of chitin is poorly understood. Feeding larvae of the insect Lucilia cuprina on the fungal chitin synthase competitive inhibitor, nikkomycin Z resulted in strong concentration-dependent mortality of the larvae (LD50 = 280 nM). This result demonstrates that chitin is an essential component of this insect. The complete cDNA and deduced amino-acid sequences of the first arthropod chitin synthase-like protein, LcCS-1, from the larvae of the insect L. cuprina have been determined. The cDNA sequence is 5757 bp in length and codes for a large complex protein containing 1592 amino acids (Mr = 180 717). Analysis of the whole protein sequence reveals low, but significant, similarity to yeast chitin synthases with stronger areas of conservation centred on local regions implicated in the active sites of the yeast enzymes. Strikingly, LcCS-1 contains 15-18 potential transmembrane segments, indicating that the protein is an integral membrane protein. Two alternative topographical models of LcCS-1 are described, which involve its association with either the plasma membrane or the membrane of intracellular vesicles. LcCS-1 mRNA is produced in all life stages of the insect with expression in the larval stage limited to the integument and trachea. In a third instar larva the mRNA was localized to a single layer of epidermal cells immediately underlying the procuticle region of the integument. cDNA or genomic sequences that are highly related to fragments of LcCS-1 were demonstrated in three insect orders, one arachnid and Caenorhabditis elegans, thereby attesting to the importance of this enzyme in these chitin-producing organisms. Bioinformatics has been used to deduce the gene sequence and organization of the highly homologous Drosophila melanogaster orthologue of LcCS-1, DmCS-1.[1]


  1. Insect chitin synthase cDNA sequence, gene organization and expression. Tellam, R.L., Vuocolo, T., Johnson, S.E., Jarmey, J., Pearson, R.D. Eur. J. Biochem. (2000) [Pubmed]
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