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J Biol Chem. 2004 Sep 3;279(36):37798-807. Epub 2004 Jun 27.

Mammalian wax biosynthesis. II. Expression cloning of wax synthase cDNAs encoding a member of the acyltransferase enzyme family.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.


Wax monoesters are synthesized by the esterification of fatty alcohols and fatty acids. A mammalian enzyme that catalyzes this reaction has not been isolated. We used expression cloning to identify cDNAs encoding a wax synthase in the mouse preputial gland. The wax synthase gene is located on the X chromosome and encodes a member of the acyltransferase family of enzymes that synthesize neutral lipids. Expression of wax synthase in cultured cells led to the formation of wax monoesters from straight chain saturated, unsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty alcohols and acids. Polyisoprenols also were incorporated into wax monoesters by the enzyme. The wax synthase had little or no ability to synthesize cholesteryl esters, diacylglycerols, or triacylglycerols, whereas other acyltransferases, including the acyl-CoA:monoacylglycerol acyltransferase 1 and 2 enzymes and the acyl-CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1 and 2 enzymes, exhibited modest wax monoester synthesis activities. Confocal light microscopy indicated that the wax synthase was localized in membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum. Wax synthase mRNA was abundant in tissues rich in sebaceous glands such as the preputial gland and eyelid and was present at lower levels in other tissues. Coexpression of cDNAs specifying fatty acyl-CoA reductase 1 and wax synthase led to the synthesis of wax monoesters. The data suggest that wax monoester synthesis in mammals involves a two step biosynthetic pathway catalyzed by fatty acyl-CoA reductase and wax synthase enzymes.

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