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Elife. 2014 Apr 24;3:e02365. doi: 10.7554/eLife.02365.

A gene horizontally transferred from bacteria protects arthropods from host plant cyanide poisoning.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Agrozoology, Department of Crop Protection, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
2
SynBioC Research Group, Department of Sustainable Organic Chemistry and Technology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
3
Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada Instituto de Ciencias de la Vid y el Vino, Logroño, Spain.
4
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, Nice, France.
5
Laboratory of Agrozoology, Department of Crop Protection, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands thomas.vanleeuwen@ugent.be.

Abstract

Cyanogenic glucosides are among the most widespread defense chemicals of plants. Upon plant tissue disruption, these glucosides are hydrolyzed to a reactive hydroxynitrile that releases toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Yet many mite and lepidopteran species can thrive on plants defended by cyanogenic glucosides. The nature of the enzyme known to detoxify HCN to β-cyanoalanine in arthropods has remained enigmatic. Here we identify this enzyme by transcriptome analysis and functional expression. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the gene is a member of the cysteine synthase family horizontally transferred from bacteria to phytophagous mites and Lepidoptera. The recombinant mite enzyme had both β-cyanoalanine synthase and cysteine synthase activity but enzyme kinetics showed that cyanide detoxification activity was strongly favored. Our results therefore suggest that an ancient horizontal transfer of a gene originally involved in sulfur amino acid biosynthesis in bacteria was co-opted by herbivorous arthropods to detoxify plant produced cyanide.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02365.001.

KEYWORDS:

Tetranychus urticae; cyanogenesis; lateral gene transfer; phytophagy

PMID:
24843024
PMCID:
PMC4011162
DOI:
10.7554/eLife.02365
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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