Characterization and evolution of furanocoumarin-inducible cytochrome P450s in the parsnip webworm, Depressaria pastinacella

W. Li, A. R. Zangerl, M. A. Schuler, M. R. Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depressaria pastinacella, the parsnip webworm, a specialist on two genera in the Apiaceae, routinely consumes plant tissues high in furanocoumarin content and is capable of rapid cytochrome P450-mediated detoxification of these compounds. In this study, four cDNAs were cloned from the larval midgut of this Insect: two full-length CYP6AB3 and CYP6AE1 cDNAs are closely related to members of the furanocoumarin-metabolizing CYP6B subfamily and two partial CYP9A6 and CYP9A7 cDNAs are related to members of the CYP9A subfamily that have also been linked to the detoxification of xenobiotics. At least one of these P450s (CYP6AB3) is inducible by dietary furanocoumarins, indicating its potential involvement in furanocoumarin metabolism. A homology model of CYP6AB3 was constructed and compared to models of CYP6B1 from the specialist species, Papilio polyxenes, and CYP6B4 from the generalist species, P. glaucus. Structural superpositioning of these models has revealed very high spatial similarity of elements, including the B helix, B′-C loop, I helix and C-terminal domain, within the catalytic sites of these proteins. Most importantly, key amino acid residues that can potentially come into contact with furanocoumarin substrates display conservation in their spatial positioning and side chain polarities.Three of these residues, Val103, Leu113 and Phe118 (numbered according to CYP6AB3), are conserved in all three of these proteins, further implicating CYP6AB3 in furanocoumarin metabolism by parsnip webworms. Characterization of these P450 cDNAs will allow for functional analyses aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the coevolutionary interactions between this herbivore and its principal host plant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-613
Number of pages11
JournalInsect Molecular Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Cytochrome P450 monooxygenases
  • Homology modelling
  • Insect-plant interactions
  • Plant allelocrtemicals
  • Transcriptional regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Insect Science


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