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Eur J Biochem. 2002 Feb;269(3):819-25.

Characterization of a novel silkworm (Bombyx mori) phenol UDP-glucosyltransferase.

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Department of Biology, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Sugar conjugation is a major pathway for the inactivation and excretion of both endogenous and exogenous compounds. We report here the molecular cloning and functional characterization of a phenol UDP-glucosyltransferase (UGT) from the silkworm, Bombyx mori, which was named BmUGT1. The complete cDNA clone is 1.6 kb, and the gene is expressed in several tissues of fifth-instar larvae, including fat body, midgut, integument, testis, silk gland and haemocytes. The predicted protein comprises 520 amino acids and has approximately 30% overall amino-acid identity with other members of the UGT family. The most conserved region of the protein is the C-terminal half, which has been implicated in binding the UDP-sugar. BmUGT1 was expressed in insect cells using the baculovirus expression system, and a range of compounds belonging to diverse chemical groups were assessed as potential substrates for the enzyme. The expressed enzyme had a wide substrate specificity, showing activity with flavonoids, coumarins, terpenoids and simple phenols. These results support a role for the enzyme in detoxication processes, such as minimizing the harmful effects of ingested plant allelochemicals. This work represents the first instance where an insect ugt gene has been associated with a specific enzyme activity.

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