Insect biochemistry and molecular biology

Characterization of an extracellular salicyl alcohol oxidase from larval defensive secretions of Chrysomela populi and Phratora vitellinae (Chrysomelina).

PMID 12530219


Larvae of a number of chrysomelid leaf beetles sequester phenol glucosides such as salicin from their food plants, i.e. Salix and Populus spp. Salicin is hydrolyzed in the glandular reservoir of the defensive glands. The resulting salicyl alcohol (saligenin) is oxidized by an extracellular oxidase. The product salicylaldehyde accumulates as major defensive compound. The secretions from Chrysomela populi and Phratora vitellinae were preserved in saturated ammonium sulfate solution and subjected to micro-purification of the oxidase by means of electrophoretic methods. The enzyme from P. vitellinae has a native M(r) of 334,000 and a subunit M(r) of 79,000 indicating a tetrameric enzyme. The isoelectric points of the enzymes from C. populi and P. vitellinae are at pH 5.4 and 5.2, respectively. In the oxidation of salicyl alcohol oxygen functions as electron acceptor yielding hydrogen peroxide as product. Hydrogen peroxide does not accumulate in native secretions but appears to be degraded most likely by a catalase. The oxidases from the two species show broad pH optima in the range 5.5 to 6.5, they oxidize salicyl alcohol as main substrate. Minor substrates are several ortho-substituted and to a lesser extent meta- but not para-substituted benzyl alcohols. In the presence of 8-hydroxygeraniol only trace amounts of the respective aldehyde are formed. The Km values of salicyl alcohol are 132 mM (C. populi) and 63 mM (P. vitellinae). The extracellular enzyme, which is functionally related to fungal aryl alcohol oxidase (EC and vanillyl alcohol oxidase (EC was named salicyl alcohol oxidase. The continuous formation of salicylaldehyde in the glandular reservoir can be compared to the operation of an enzyme reactor. Due to its low aqueous solubility the produced aldehyde steadily leaves the aqueous reaction fluid and builds up an organic phase which may account for 15% of the total liquid volume of the secretion.

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