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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 1999 Nov;29(11):999-1013.

Secreted ferritin subunits are of two kinds in insects molecular cloning of cDNAs encoding two major subunits of secreted ferritin from Calpodes ethlius.

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Department of Zoology, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


In insects, holoferritin is easily visible in the vacuolar system of tissues that filter the hemolymph and, at least in Lepidoptera, is abundant in the hemolymph. Sequences reported for insect secreted ferritins from Lepidoptera and Diptera have high sequence diversity. We examined the nature of this diversity for the first time by analyzing sequences of cDNAs encoding two ferritin subunits from one species, Calpodes ethlius (Lepidoptera, Hesperiidae). We found that insect secreted ferritin subunits are of two types with little resemblance to each other. Ferritin was isolated from iron loaded hemolymph of C. ethlius fifth instar larvae by differential centrifugation. The N-terminal amino acid sequences for the nonglycosylated subunit with Mr 24,000 (S) and the largest glycosylated subunit with Mr 31,000 (G) were determined. The N-termini of the two subunits were different and were used to construct degenerate PCR primers. The same cDNA products were amplified from cDNA libraries from the midgut which secretes holoferritin and from the fat body which secretes iron-poor apoferritin. The G subunit most closely resembles the glycosylated ferritin subunit from Manduca sexta and the S subunit resembles the Drosophila small subunit. The S and G subunits from Calpodes were dissimilar and distinct from the cytosolic ferritins of vertebrates and invertebrates. Additional sequences were obtained by 5' and 3' RACE from separate fat body and midgut RACE libraries. cDNAs encoding both subunits had a consensus iron responsive element (IRE) in a conserved cap-distal location of their 5' UTR. An integrin-binding RGD motif found in the G subunit and conserved in Manduca may facilitate iron uptake through a calreticulin (mobilferrin)/integrin pathway. Calpodes and other insect ferritins have conserved cysteine residues to which fatty acids can be linked. Dynamic acylation of ferritin may slow but not prevent its passage out of the ER.

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