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Metal ions regulate terpenoid metabolism in insects
Date:2/28/2013

d C5 units. Special enzymes mediate chain elongation. These enzymes have attracted the curiosity of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, and the Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry in Halle. They studied mechanistic alternatives of how chain elongation is regulated.

Metal ions instead of specialized enzymes

Enzymes involved in chain elongation belong to the group of isoprenyl diphosphate synthases. Such an enzyme was isolated from larvae of the horseradish leaf beetle Phaedon cochleariae. It raised the interest of Antje Burse, project group leader in the Department of Bioorganic Chemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

Experiments with larvae in which the enzyme encoding gene was silenced showed that the protein was involved in the formation of the C10 monoterpene chrysomelidial that larvae produce to defend themselves against predators. The larvae accumulate this monoterpene in special glands and release it as a defensive secretion when they are attacked by their enemies, such as ants.

However, surprising results emerged after comprehensive biochemical characterization of the enzyme. "After we had conducted an in vitro analysis of the protein, including measurements of product formation in the presence of different metal ions as co-factors, we were surprised to discover that only geranyl diphosphate (C10), a precursor for the defensive substance chrysomelidial, was produced after addition of cobalt and manganese ions. On the other hand, adding magnesium ions resulted in the formation of farnesyl diphosphate (C15), a potential precursor for juvenile hormones, which is 5 carbon atoms longer," says the scientist. All three metals were found in larval tissue, leading to the assumption that enzyme catalysis is directed by the different metal co-factors in the larvae, whichever is predominant in amount: Towards toxin or hormone − physiologically a major difference.
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Contact: Antje Burse
aburse@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1265
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert  

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