- Research article
- Open Access
Identification and analysis of YELLOW protein family genes in the silkworm, Bombyx mori
- Ai-Hua Xia†3,
- Qing-Xiang Zhou†1, 3,
- Lin-Lin Yu3,
- Wei-Guo Li1,
- Yong-Zhu Yi2,
- Yao-Zhou Zhang2Email author and
- Zhi-Fang Zhang3Email author
© Xia et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2006
- Received: 08 May 2006
- Accepted: 03 August 2006
- Published: 03 August 2006
The major royal jelly proteins/yellow (MRJP/YELLOW) family possesses several physiological and chemical functions in the development of Apis mellifera and Drosophila melanogaster. Each protein of the family has a conserved domain named MRJP. However, there is no report of MRJP/YELLOW family proteins in the Lepidoptera.
Using the YELLOW protein sequence in Drosophila melanogaster to BLAST silkworm EST database, we found a gene family composed of seven members with a conserved MRJP domain each and named it YELLOW protein family of Bombyx mori. We completed the cDNA sequences with RACE method. The protein of each member possesses a MRJP domain and a putative cleavable signal peptide consisting of a hydrophobic sequence. In view of genetic evolution, the whole Bm YELLOW protein family composes a monophyletic group, which is distinctly separate from Drosophila melanogaster and Apis mellifera. We then showed the tissue expression profiles of Bm YELLOW protein family genes by RT-PCR.
A Bombyx mori YELLOW protein family is found to be composed of at least seven members. The low homogeneity and unique pattern of gene expression by each member among the family ensure us to prophesy that the members of Bm YELLOW protein family would play some important physiological functions in silkworm development.
- Apis Mellifera
- Royal Jelly
- Malpighian Tubule
- Silk Gland
Major royal jelly proteins and YELLOW proteins in Insecta, together with an orphan protein found in Deinococcus radiodurans, a radiation tolerant bacterium, form a protein family named the MRJP/YELLOW family [1, 2]. Major royal jelly proteins (MRJPs) are initially identified as the major content of royal jelly (RJ) proteins, constituting 80%–90% of the total RJ proteins which play a central role in the honeybee development . A recent report indicates that MRJP/YELLOW protein family in Apis mellifera includes at least 8 MRJPs (named MRJP1-8) and two homologues of the Drosophila YELLOW proteins, Am-YELLOW and Am-YELLOW-f . Most MRJPs have the characteristic that there are repetitive segments encoding long homopetptides at the carboxyl terminal. The structure is thought of as the accessible form of storing nutrition . Apis mellifera MRJP/YELLOW proteins may have higher physiological functions because at least one of the members expresses in the brain's mushroom body of the honeybee . At the N-terminal of MRJP/YELLOW protein, there is a strong hydrophobic sequence functioning as putative signal peptide . It should be noted that the term MRJP was created before knowing their physico-chemical properties. Later it was established that these proteins have physico-chemical properties similar to those of ovalbumin (storage egg-white protein) or serum albumin (major protein of serum) which are typical albunoid proteins and therefore researchers have proposed to rename major royal jelly proteins as apalbumins. Thus, apalbumin-1 will be designated as MRJP1, apalbumin-2 as MRJP2, and so on. This new terminology of honeybee larval diet proteins corresponds with reality that these proteins are presented not only in royal jelly, but also in worker and drone jellies .
The Drosophila yellow gene is related to normal larval and adult pigmentation and movement, and the mating behavior of male and female [8–10]. It encodes a simple transcription unit of two exons, encoding a 541 aa protein. Further researches indicate several novel Drosophila genes possessing a high identical MRJP conserved domain are termed as the yellow family . With the achievement of the Drosophila melanogaster genome-sequencing project , the Drosophila melanogaster yellow gene family has grown to a total of more than 14 genes . The Drosophila melanogaster yellow-y and ebony genes together determine the degree of melanization and its pattern . The yellow-f and yellow-f2 genes have dopachrome-conversion enzyme activity that likely playing an important role during melanin biosynthesis in Drosophila melanogaster larvae, pupae and adults . Furthermore, MRJP-like protein was also found and identified in the blood-sucking insect, possessing an agglutinin activity and probably intermediating in the evolution from yellow-like function towards royal jelly components .
To date, no related protein has been found in the non-insect metazoans except the orphan protein in the red pigmented bacterium D. radiodurans with 59% similarity to the Drosophila Yellow protein . However, there is no report of a MRJP/YELLOW family protein in the Lepidoptera. With the declaration of the completion of EST library [17, 18] and the achievement of genome sequence draft project [19, 20] in Bombyx mori, the silkworm, as a model organism has been attracting more scientists. We searched the silkworm EST library by the BLAST method and found eight partial MRJP/YELLOW family genes in Bombyx mori. Using the SMART™ RACE Amplification method we completed seven of the cDNA sequences. The nucleotide acid and amino acid structures of the genes were analyzed, and the tissue expression profiles and phylogenetic analysis were also studied.
Identification of Bm YELLOW protein family in the EST library
The gene family encoding YELLOW-like proteins in Bombyx mori
cDNA length (without Poly(A) tail)
MRJP Domain (aa)
Genbank accession no.
Best similar to Drosophila yellow family
middle gut/wing discs/ovary/fat body/pheromone gland
embryo/fat body/pheromone gland
pheromone gland/ovary/fat body
ccompound eye/pheromone gland/ovary/fat body
Sequence analysis in Bm YELLOW protein family
Primers used for 3'-RACE and RT-PCR
Primers for 3'-RACE
Primers for RT-PCR
Nup and Actin
The sequence of the Bm-yellow-d cDNA was almost completely covered by the sequence (GenBank: AADK01006220, AADK01006404, AADK01009017) readings from shotgun sequencing of the silkworm genome. This enabled us to identify the 6 introns in the genomic locus of Bm-yellow-d. Considering the incompleteness of the fifth intron, two primers (5'-gtttccaacgtgggaagactta, 5'-cgagaaacgtcgatactgtgtt) for PCR were designed basing on known sequences (GenBank: AADK01006404, AADK01009017), to complete the genomic sequence of Bm-yellow-d. Surprisingly, we got several amplification products of different sizes and the sequencing results showed that there might be an extensively high repeat area.
Fifteen ESTs from pheromone gland, fat body or embryo were combined in an assembled contig 1,274 bp long absent 3'-terminal. After combined with the 3'-RACE product from pheromone gland, a 1,543 bp cDNA was gained and named Bm-yellow-fa. Bm-yellow-fa contained an open reading frame of 1,380 bp encoding a protein 459 amino acids long. The stop codon was located 164 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail, 31 bp upstream of which was a consensus polyadenylation signal (AAUAAA). A putative signal peptide was found in the first 17 amino acids of the protein. The complete MRJP conserved region stretched from residues 168 to 456.
Shotgun sequence readings of the silkworm Genome (GenBank: BAAB01099246, BAAB01003180, BAAB01177891, AADK01017861, BAAB01046234, AADK01031417, BAAB01168441, BAAB01050009, AADK01029979) could cover the whole of the Bm-yellow-fa cDNA. That enabled us to deduce that the genomic locus of Bm-yellow-fa contained 12 introns.
Bm-yellow-c was combined by the assembled contig 1,274 bp long, consisting of 10 ESTs from pheromone gland, ovary and fat body, and the 3'-terminal fragment obtained by 3'-RACE from pheromone gland. The gene was composed of 1,916 bp and contained an open reading frame of 1,224 bp, encoding a protein 407 amino acids long with a putative signal peptide in the first 18 amino acids and a MRJP conserved region in 118–406 amino acid residues. The stop codon was located 633 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail. No typical polyadenylation (AAUAAA) signal was found.
Shotgun sequence readings of the silkworm Genome (GenBank: BAAB01124731, AADK01025556, BAAB01064927, AADK01021354, BAAB01083903, AADK01026184) covered partial of the Bm-yellow-c cDNA, which enabled us to conclude at least 9 introns were contained in the genomic locus of Bm-yellow-c.
A 941 bp long assembled contig consisted of 3 ESTs from pheromone gland, fat body or embryo. We obtained the 3'-terminal fragment by 3'-RACE from ovary and combined as the Bm-yellow-c gene 1,516 bp long. The gene contained an open reading frame of 1,257 bp, encoding a protein 418 amino acids long, with a putative signal peptide in the first 20 amino acids and a MRJP conserved region spanning 132–416 amino acid residues. The stop codon was located 188 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail, 14 bp upstream which was the consensus polyadenylation signal (AAUAAA).
Shotgun sequence reading of the silkworm Genome (GenBank: BAAB01155212, AADK01014564, AADK01037111, AADK01031942) covered all the Bm-yellow-fb cDNA. That enabled us to conclude that the genomic locus of Bm-yellow-fb contained 8 introns.
The EST from pheromone gland (GenBank: BP183406) 656 bp long fell in the smallest contig. We got a long 3'-RACE product from pheromone gland and assembled it with the EST sequence, and obtained the 2,045 bp Bm-yellow-b gene. The gene contained an open reading frame of 1,374 bp, encoding a protein 457 amino acids long with a putative signal peptide in the first 26 amino acids and a MRJP conserved domain spanning 135–413 amino acid residues. The stop codon was located 640 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail, and a consensus polyadenylation signal (AAUAAA) was located only 12 bp upstream of the tail.
Shotgun sequence readings of the silkworm Genome (GenBank: BAAB01152328, AADK01044238) covered the whole cDNA of Bm-yellow-b and no intron was identified in the genomic locus of Bm-yellow-b.
Two ESTs from ovary and brain composed an assembled contig 731 bp long. The 3'-terminal fragment was obtained by 3'-RACE from ovary and combined with the former assembled contig, composing the cDNA of Bm-yellow-f2, which was 1,130 bp long. Bm-yellow-f2 cDNA contained an open reading frame of 855 bp, encoding a protein 284 amino acids long with a putative signal peptide in the first 17 amino acids and an incomplete MRJP conserved region spanning 125–216 amino acid residues. The stop codon was located 259 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail, while no consensus polyadenylation signal (AAUAAA) was found.
Shotgun sequence readings of the silkworm Genome (GenBank: AADK01003428, AADK01027742) covered partial of the cDNA of Bm-yellow-f2. That enabled us to conclude that at least 5 introns were contained in the genomic locus of Bm-yellow-f2.
A 1,045 bp assembled contig consisted of 10 ESTs from compound eye, pheromone gland, ovary and fat body was named Bm-yellow. With the result of 3'-RACE, we got a cDNA of 1,947 bp contained a complete open reading frame, encoding a protein of 514 amino acids. A putative signal peptide was found in the first 18 amino acids and a MRJP conserved domain was located from 115 to 399 amino acid residues. The stop codon was located 373 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail, and a consensus polyadenylation signal (AAUAAA) was found located 17 bp upstream of the poly (A) tail.
Shotgun sequence readings of the silkworm Genome (GenBank: BAAB01161029, AADK01014604) covered partial of the Bm-yellow cDNA. It showed that no less than 3 introns were in the genomic locus of Bm-yellow.
Alignment and phylogeny of Bm YELLOW protein family proteins
Homology alignment was performed between the YELLOW protein families of Drosophila melanogaster and Bombyx mori at amino acid sequence level. The result showed that Bm-YELLOW-d shared the highest identity with YELLOW-d2 among Drosophila melanogaster YELLOWfamily (38.8%). Bm-YELLOW-fa and Bm-YELLOW-fb both shared the highest identity with YELLOW-f (42.9% and 35.1%, respectively), while Bm-YELLOW-f2 shared with YELLOW-f2 (21.1%). Bm-YELLOW-c shared the highest identity with YELLOW-c (50.5%), and Bm-YELLOW-b was the most similar to YELLOW-b with an identity of 23%. Bm-YELLOW was mostly homologous to Drosophila melanogaster YELLOW (51.2%).
Tissue expression patterns of Bm YELLOW protein family
We obtained seven genes coding proteins each contains a conserved MRJP domain from the present silkworm EST library and named the silkworm YELLOW protein family genes. Each protein in the family possessed a putative cleavable signal peptide composed of a hydrophobic sequence, 17 to 26 residues long at the N-terminal, and a MRJP conserved domain. In the SilkDB [21, 22], seven genes predicted from the silkworm genome draft sequence, each possess a putative MRJP conserved domain have been named as Bmb004831, Bmb006279, Bmb006279, Bmb010554, Bmb026342, Bmb030806, and Bmb033954. However, our results are different from theirs.
For the confidence of Bm YELLOW protein family members, we designed primer1 and primer2 based on the EST sequences that included 5' non-coding region except Bm-yellow-d. In order to validate the assemblage of Bm-yellow-d, we designed two primers containing complete coding region (5'-atgtcgtacggaatcgagcgat-3' and 5'-ctacagaaatgacacagcgcc-3'), and successfully cloned the entire open reading frame from the midgut cDNA. The length of Bm-yellow-f2 gene was the shortest and its MRJP conserved domain was truncated. But the search of its genomic sequence revealed that contig027742 (GenBank: AADK01027742) covered all the sequence of the last exon (at the nucleotide acid site from 747 to 1,140). All the above results proved the credibility of the seven cloned Bm YELLOW protein genes.
The Apis mellifera MRJP/YELLOW family and the Drosophila melanogaster YELLOW family resulted from a series of events of a duplication and subsequent divergence . What analysis of cDNA sequence and genomic structure of Bm YELLOW protein family genes of the silkworm demonstrated are as follows: on one hand, the seven complete members encoding various lengths of amino acids, 284 to 514 long, contained stretches of unique amino acid sequences in their coding regions; on the other hand, some of the 0–12 introns included extensive repeat sequences. But only 1–3 introns were included in the 14 yellow family members of Drosophila melanogaster. We assumed that the Bm YELLOW protein family also originated in the same manner, but the evolutionary procedure was more complex than that in Drosophila and Apis.
Nothing has been reported on the cloning and function of lepidopteran YELLOW protein family until recently. From the tissue expression profiles, we found that all the seven genes of the Bm YELLOW protein family were transcripted in head, wing discs, body wall and gonads (testis and ovary). As Bm-yellow-d and Bm-yellow-b were observed in every tissue and possessed similar tissue expression patterns, they were also classified into a paraphyletic sub-group in the phylogenetic tree. Then we could speculate that Bm-yellow-d and Bm-yellow-b had important roles in silkworm development and had similar physiological functions. The Bm-yellow-fa, Bm-yellow-fb and Bm-yellow-f2 had a similar distribution in the tissue expression profiles and had the best similarity to Drosophila yellow-f and yellow-f2 which had the dopachrome-conversion enzyme activity. In addition, the three members were classified into a paraphyletic sub-group in the phylogenetic tree. These indicated that Bm-yellow-fa, Bm-yellow-fb and Bm-yellow-f2 might have functions in pigmentation. Preliminary experiments showed that appearance of the pupa was dark black, similar to the phenotype of black pupa due to the over expression of Bm-yellow-d in pupal stage via a weakened pathogenic baculoviral Expression system (see Additional file 1). This indicated that Bm-yellow-d might be in a close relation with cuticle pigmentation too. The function of Drosophila YELLOW members is relative to reproduction, and studies showed that yellow-g and yellow-g2 in Drosophila playing a female-specific role in egg development . All the members of the Bm YELLOW protein family had a high transcription level in ovary and testis. This suggested that Bm YELLOW protein family were also involved to the reproduction.
Bombyx mori YELLOW protein family is the first reported MRJP/YELLOW family to date in the Lepidoptera. It is composed of at least seven members each has one MRJP domain. The low identity of their signal peptides and their MRJP conserved domains, and the highly diversity in cDNA and genomic structure and also unique tissue expression patterns indicated that the members of Bm YELLOW protein family might have various functions in the silkworm development.
Insects and tissue dissection
The silkworm stock Jingsong×Haoyue is maintained in our laboratory. The insects were reared on artificial diet at 25°C with 70%–80% relative humidity. Tissues were dissected out at proper developmental stages for the experiments.
Database searching and sequence assembly
The protein sequence of Drosophila melanogaster yellow (GenBank: AAF45497) was used to BLAST Bombyx mori EST database . The obtained sequences were associated and catalogued by the use of DNASTAR software package  and CLUSTAL X software package . The conserved domain was speculated by the Internet server  and the signal peptide was speculated through the SignalP 3.0 Server program . The genomic DNA sequence was searched from the insect genomes with Bombyx-limited .
3'-Rapid amplification of cDNA ends (3'-RACE) and DNA sequencing
Total RNA was isolated from tissues using TRIZOL Reagent (Invitrogen) according to the standard protocol. All RNA samples were treated with Rnase free Dnase (Promega), and evaluated in agarose gels to ensure that they contained intact rRNA and were free of DNA contamination.
One microgramme of total RNA extracted from different tissues at given stages was used for 3'-RACE cDNA synthesis (BD SMART™ RACE cDNA Amplification Kit, Clontech), according to the user manual. PCR was performed with primer1 and Universal Primer A Mix (UPM, Clontech), then a nest PCR was used with primer2 and NUP using the suitable diluted former PCR product as the template. Each PCR reaction was carried out under the following conditions; after denaturing for 5 min at 95°C, subsequent cooling on ice and addition of Taq DNA polymerase, PCR was performed 30 cycles of 94°C for 1 min, 60°C for 1 min, and 72°C for 1–2 min, followed by 10 min incubation at 72°C. Primers used for 3'-RACE were listed in Table 2.
The PCR products were separated on agarose gel by electrophoresis, purified and ligated into pMD18-Tvector (Takara). Several clones were sequenced by the dideoxynucleotide method with ABI-3730 automatic sequencer. DNA sequences were analyzed using DNASTAR and CLUSTAL X software packages.
The yellow-like family gene cDNAs obtained in Bombyx mori were submitted to the GenBank under the accession numbers listed in Table 1.
Protein sequences alignment and phylogenetic analysis
Yellow-like protein sequences were aligned and saved as PHYLIP format with CLUSTALX software package. Then a neighbor-joining (NJ) tree based on amino acid sequences was constructed by PHYLIP software package (100 bootstrap replicates).
Two microgrammes of total RNA of the different tissues at proper stages were used to synthesize cDNAs according to the Reverse Transcription kit's protocol (Promega Cat.: A3500). Using the reverse transcription products as the templates, 30 cycles of amplification were performed in all the members of Bm YELLOW protein family with specific primers listed in Table 2. At the same time, the amplification of Bm-actin A3 cDNA (25 cycles) was used as a standardization control. The PCR products were separated on 1.5% agarose gel by electrophoresis.
This work was supported by financial grants from The National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program, No. 2005CB121006), National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (863 Major Program, No. 2005AA206120), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30470034). We thank Zhenzhen Yang for the language editing of our manuscript.
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