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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Mar;40(3):241-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2010.02.004. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

Developmental characterization, function and regulation of a Laccase2 encoding gene in the honey bee, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera, Apinae).

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Departamento de Biologia, Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Bandeirantes 3900, 14040-901 Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.


In insects, exoskeleton (cuticle) formation at each molt cycle includes complex biochemical pathways wherein the laccase enzymes (EC may have a key role. We identified an Amlac2 gene that encodes a laccase2 in the honey bee, Apis mellifera, and investigated its function in exoskeleton differentiation. The Amlac2 gene consists of nine exons resulting in an ORF of 2193 nucleotides. The deduced translation product is a 731 amino acid protein of 81.5 kDa and a pI of 6.05. Amlac2 is highly expressed in the integument of pharate adults, and the expression precedes the onset of cuticle pigmentation and the intensification of sclerotization. In accordance with the temporal sequence of exoskeleton differentiation from anterior to posterior direction, the levels of Amlac2 transcript increase earlier in the thoracic than in the abdominal integument. The gene expression lasts even after the bees emerge from brood cells and begin activities in the nest, but declines after the transition to foraging stage, suggesting that maturation of the exoskeleton is completed at this stage. Post-transcriptional knockdown of Amlac2 gene expression resulted in structural abnormalities in the exoskeleton and drastically affected adult eclosion. By setting a ligature between the thorax and abdomen of early pupae we could delay the increase in hemolymph ecdysteroid levels in the abdomen. This severely impaired the increase in Amlac2 transcript levels and also the differentiation of the abdominal exoskeleton. Taken together, these results indicate that Amlac2 expression is controlled by ecdysteroids and has a critical role in the differentiation of the adult exoskeleton of honey bees.

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