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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar 23;101(12):4024-9. Epub 2004 Mar 15.

CYP15A1, the cytochrome P450 that catalyzes epoxidation of methyl farnesoate to juvenile hormone III in cockroach corpora allata.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


The molecular analysis of insect hormone biosynthesis has long been hampered by the minute size of the endocrine glands producing them. Expressed sequence tags from the corpora allata of the cockroach Diploptera punctata yielded a new cytochrome P450, CYP15A1. Its full-length cDNA encoded a 493-aa protein that has only 34% amino acid identity with CYP4C7, a terpenoid omega-hydroxylase previously cloned from this tissue. Heterologous expression of the cDNA in Escherichia coli produced >300 nmol of CYP15A1 per liter of culture. After purification, its catalytic activity was reconstituted by using phospholipids and house fly P450 reductase. CYP15A1 metabolizes methyl (2E,6E)-3,7,11-trimethyl-2,6-dodecatrienoate (methyl farnesoate) to methyl (2E,6E)-(10R)-10,11-epoxy-3,7,11-trimethyl-2,6-dodecadienoate [juvenile hormone III, JH III] with a turnover of 3-5 nmol/min/nmol P450. The enzyme produces JH III with a ratio of approximately 98:2 in favor of the natural (10R)-epoxide enantiomer. This result is in contrast to other insect P450s, such as CYP6A1, that epoxidize methyl farnesoate with lower regio- and stereoselectivity. RT-PCR experiments show that the CYP15A1 gene is expressed selectively in the corpora allata of D. punctata, at the time of maximal JH production by the glands. We thus report the cloning and functional expression of a gene involved in an insect-specific step of juvenile hormone biosynthesis. Heterologously expressed CYP15A1 from D. punctata or its ortholog from economically important species may be useful in the design and screening of selective insect control agents.

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