Inhibition of CYP6B1-mediated detoxification of xanthotoxin by plant allelochemicals in the black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

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The structural and biosynthetic diversity of allelochemicals in plants is thought to arise from selection for additive toxicity as a consequence of toxin mixture or for enhanced toxicity as a result of synergism. In order to understand how insects cope with this type of plant defense, we tested the effects of some allelochemicals in host plants of the black swallowtail Papilio polyxenes on the xanthotoxin-metabolic activity of CYP6B1, the principal enzyme responsible for the detoxification of furanocoumarins in this caterpillar. Additionally, the effects of some synthetic compounds not normally encountered by P. polyxenes on CYP6B1 were tested. These studies demonstrate that the integrity of furanocoumarin structure is important for competitive binding to the active site of CYP6B1, even though the carbonyl group on the pyranone ring apparently does not affect its inhibitory capacity, as in the case of furanochromones. Angular furanocoumarins are generally less phototoxic to many organisms than linear furanocoumarins due to their reduced capacity for cross-linking DNA strands, yet they are more toxic than linear furanocoumarins to black swallowtail larvae. This enhanced toxicity in vivo may be due to the ability of angular furanocoumarins to bind to the active site of CYP6B1 without being rapidly metabolized. This binding reduces the availability of CYP6B1 to metabolize other linear furanocoumarins. The structure-activity relationships for methylenedioxyphenyl compounds, flavonoids, imidazole, and imidazole derivatives are also discussed in light of their capacity to inhibit the xanthotoxin-metabolic activity of CYP6B1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-522
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (P450s)
  • Enzyme inhibition
  • Flavonoids
  • Furanochromones
  • Furanocoumarins
  • Methylenedioxyphenyl compounds
  • Plant-insect interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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