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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2012 Dec;42(12):881-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2012.08.002. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

A horizontally transferred cyanase gene in the spider mite Tetranychus urticae is involved in cyanate metabolism and is differentially expressed upon host plant change.

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  • 1Laboratory of Agrozoology, Department of Crop Protection, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.


The genome of the phytophagous two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae was recently sequenced, representing the first complete chelicerate genome, but also the first genome of a highly polyphagous agricultural pest. Genome analysis revealed the presence of an unexpected high number of cases of putative horizontal gene transfers, including a gene that encodes a cyanase or cyanate lyase. In this study we show by recombinant expression that the T. urticae cyanase remained functionally active after horizontal gene transfer and has a high affinity for cyanate. Cyanases were also detected in other plant parasitic spider mites species such as Tetranychus evansi and Panonychus citri, suggesting that an ancient gene transfer occurred before the diversification within the Tetranychidae family. To investigate the potential role of cyanase in the evolution of plant parasitic spider mites, we studied cyanase expression patterns in T. urticae in relation to host plant range and cyanogenesis, a common plant defense mechanism. Spider mites can alter cyanase expression levels after transfer to several new host plants, including the cyanogenic Phaseolus lunatus. However, the role of cyanase is probably not restricted to cyanide response, but likely to the plant nutritional quality as a whole. We finally discuss potential interactions between cyanase activity and pyrimidine and amino acid synthesis.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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