Characterization of candidate intermediates in the Black Box of the ecdysone biosynthetic pathway in Drosophila melanogaster: Evaluation of molting activities on ecdysteroid-defective larvae

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Early steps of the biosynthetic pathway of the insect steroid hormone ecdysone remains the "Black Box" wherein the characteristic ecdysteroid skeleton is built. 7-Dehydrocholesterol (7dC) is the precursor of uncharacterized intermediates in the Black Box. The oxidation step at C-3 has been hypothesized during conversion from 7dC to 3-oxo-2, 22, 25-trideoxyecdysone, yet 3-dehydroecdysone is undetectable in some insect species. Therefore, we first confirmed that the oxidation at C-3 occurs in the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster using deuterium-labeled cholesterol. We next investigated the molting activities of candidate intermediates, including oxidative products of 7dC, by feeding-rescue experiments for Drosophila larvae in which an expression level of a biosynthetic enzyme was knocked down by the RNAi technique. We found that the administration of cholesta-4, 7-dien-3-one (3-oxo-Δ4, 7C) could overcome the molting arrest of ecdysteroid-defective larvae in which the expression level of neverland was reduced. However, feeding 3-oxo-Δ4, 7C to larvae in which the expression levels of shroud and Cyp6t3 were reduced inhibited molting at the first instar stage, suggesting that this steroid could be converted into an ecdysteroid-antagonist in loss of function studies of these biosynthetic enzymes. Administration of the highly conjugated cholesta-4, 6, 8(14)-trien-3-one, oxidized from 3-oxo-Δ4, 7C, did not trigger molting of ecdysteroid-defective larvae. These results suggest that an oxidative product derived from 7dC is converted into ecdysteroids without the formation of this stable conjugated compound. We further found that the 14α-hydroxyl moiety of Δ4-steroids is required to overcome the molting arrest of larvae in loss of function studies of Neverland, Shroud, CYP6T3 or Spookier, suggesting that oxidation at C-14 is indispensable for conversion of these Δ4-steroids into ecdysteroids via 5β-reduction.


  • Journal of Insect Physiology

    Journal of Insect Physiology (93-94), 94-104, 2016-10-01

    Elsevier Ltd


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