Ligand binding pocket function of Drosophila USP is necessary for metamorphosis.

TitleLigand binding pocket function of Drosophila USP is necessary for metamorphosis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
JournalGeneral and comparative endocrinology
Date Published2013

The widely accepted paradigm that epoxidized methyl farnesoates ("juvenile hormones," JHs) are the principal sesquiterpenoid hormones regulating insect metamorphosis was assessed in Drosophila melanogaster. GC-MS analysis of circulating methyl farnesoids during the mid to late 3rd instar showed that methyl farnesoate is predominant over methyl epoxyfarnesoate (=JH III). The circulating concentration of methyl farnesoate (reaching nearly 500 nM), was easily high enough on a kinetic basis to load the Drosophila ortholog of the nuclear hormone receptor RXR (also known as "ultraspiracle," USP), whereas the circulating concentrations of JH III and methyl bisepoxyfarnesoate (bisepoxyJH III) were not. The hypothesis that the ligand pocket of USP necessarily binds an endogenous ligand for differentiation of the immature to the adult was tested with USP mutated at residue that normally extends a side chain into the ligand binding pocket. An equilibrium binding assay confirmed that the mutation (Q288A) strongly altered methyl farnesoate interaction with USP, while a heterologous cell-line transfection assay confirmed that the mutation did not allosterically alter the transcriptional response of the ultraspiracle/ecdysone receptor heterodimer to ecdysteroid signaling. Transgenic wildtype USP driven by the cognate natural promoter rescued null animals to develop to the adult inside a normally formed puparium, while in contrast animals transgenically expressing instead the ligand pocket mutant exhibited developmental derangement at the larval to pupal transition, including failure to form a properly shaped or sclerotized puparium. Other point mutations to the pocket strongly reducing affinity for methyl farnesoate similarly disrupted the larval to pupal metamorphosis. These results suggest that normal larval to pupal maturation in this mecopteran model insect requires the involvement of a distinct endocrine axis of USP binding to its own endogenous terpenoid ligand.

Short TitleGen Comp Endocrinol
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