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Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology



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Most moths utilize sex pheromones released by the female to attract a mate. Females produce the sex pheromone in the pheromone gland in a biosynthetic pathway which consists of several key enzymes. Fatty acyl-CoA reductase is one of the key enzymes, which catalyzes the conversion of fatty acyl-CoA to the corresponding alcohol, playing an important role in producing the final proportion of each pheromone component. In Helicoverpa zea, (Z)-11-hexadecenal is the major sex pheromone component in female pheromone glands and previously a large amount of hexadecanal was also found in female and male tarsi. In our previous study, we compared the transcriptome between pheromone glands and tarsi and found 20 fatty acyl-CoA reductases in both tissues. In this study, we functionally characterized four FARs which were expressed at high levels according to the transcriptome of pheromone glands and tarsi. Fatty acyl-CoA reductase 1 was homologous to other moth pheromone gland specific fatty acyl-CoA reductases, and it was also present in male tarsi. Functional expression in yeast cells indicates that only fatty acyl-CoA reductase 1 was able to produce fatty alcohols. In addition, a decreased mRNA level of fatty acyl-CoA reductase 1 in female pheromone glands and male tarsi by RNAi knockdown caused a significant decrease in the production of (Z)-11-hexadecenal in pheromone glands and hexadecanal in male tarsi. This study is the first to demonstrate the direct function of a fatty acyl-CoA reductase in male tarsi and also confirms its role in sex pheromone biosynthesis in H. zea.


This article is published as Dou, Xiaoyi, Aijun Zhang, and Russell Jurenka. "Functional identification of fatty acyl reductases in female pheromone gland and tarsi of the corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea." Insect biochemistry and molecular biology 116 (2020): 103260. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2019.103260.


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