Fatty-acyl CoA reductases (FAR) convert fatty acids into fatty alcohols in pro- and eukaryotic organisms. In the Lepidoptera, members of the FAR gene family serve in the biosynthesis of sex pheromones involved in mate communication. We used a group of closely related species, the small ermine moths (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutidae) as a model to investigate the role of FARs in the biosynthesis of complex pheromone blends. Homology-based molecular cloning in three Yponomeuta species led to the identification of multiple putative FAR transcripts homologous to FAR genes from the Bombyx mori genome. The expression of one transcript was restricted to the female pheromone-gland tissue, suggesting a role in pheromone biosynthesis, and the encoded protein belonged to a recently identified Lepidoptera-specific pgFAR gene subfamily. The Yponomeuta evonymellus pgFAR mRNA was up-regulated in sexually mature females and exhibited a 24-h cyclic fluctuation pattern peaking in the pheromone production period. Heterologous expression confirmed that the Yponomeuta pgFAR orthologs in all three species investigated [Y. evonymellus (L.), Yponomeuta padellus (L.), and Yponomeuta rorellus (Hübner)] encode a functional FAR with a broad substrate range that efficiently promoted accumulation of primary alcohols in recombinant yeast supplied with a series of biologically relevant C14- or C16-acyl precursors. Taken together, our data evidence that a single alcohol-producing pgFAR played a critical function in the production of the multicomponent pheromones of yponomeutids and support the hypothesis of moth pheromone-biosynthetic FARs belonging to a FAR gene subfamily unique to Lepidoptera.
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- Biologiska vetenskaper