Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

K-State Professors Discover Enzyme Responsible For Creation Of A Beetle's Hard Shell

Date:
August 17, 2005
Source:
Kansas State University
Summary:
Kansas State University researchers think their discovery of the enzyme involved in the hardening of a beetle's exoskeleton or cuticle could lead not only to better pest control, but also help create similar strong, lightweight materials for use in aircraft and armor.

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Kansas State University researchers think theirdiscovery of the enzyme involved in the hardening of a beetle'sexoskeleton or cuticle could lead not only to better pest control, butalso help create similar strong, lightweight materials for use inaircraft and armor.

After a beetle first molts, its exoskeleton is soft and hydrated.Somehow, it dries out and forms a hard, stiff exoskeleton. Since the1940s, scientists have wondered which enzyme among several possiblecandidates was involved in the hardening process.

The K-State researchers have found that by knocking out anenzyme called laccase-2, cuticle tanning, the process of hardening andpigmentation, can be prevented in the red flour beetle, Triboliumcastaneum.

A paper, to be released this week in the Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences, presents the research results. TheK-State researchers are Yasuyuki Arakane, research associate inbiochemistry; Subbaratnam Muthukrishnan, professor of biochemistry;Richard Beeman, adjunct professor of entomology; Michael Kanost,professor and head of the department of biochemistry; and Karl Kramer,adjunct professor emeritus of biochemistry.

Kramer said K-State researchers wanted to find out what happensbetween the times when the cuticle is soft and when it is hard. Theystudied the cuticle's composition and how the components interacted togive it stiffness, flexibility and lightness. The main components inthe cuticle are proteins and chitin, which also are found incrustaceans and other invertebrates.

The researchers knew one of two classes of oxidative enzymes,tyrosinases or laccases, is likely responsible for catalyzing theexoskeleton's hardening by cross-linking cuticular proteins, Kanostsaid.

"When we knocked out tyrosinase, everything was normal," Kramersaid. "When we knocked out laccase-2, we prevented tanning from takingplace."

When the laccase-2 gene was not expressed, the newly formedcuticle remained soft and white instead of becoming hard anddark-colored. These results indicated which protein was responsible forthe hard shell's formation, Kanost said.

The identification of laccase-2 as the catalyst for cuticletanning opens up possibilities of targeting this protein as a way ofweakening the beetle's physical defenses against mechanical, chemicaland biological injuries, Muthukrishnan said. Better insecticides couldbe developed as a result of having a more insect-specific target likelaccase-2, Kramer said.

"Gaining knowledge about a molecular process required forinsect development, but absent from humans and other vertebrateanimals, such as cuticle tanning, may be useful for developing new,bio-rational methods for controlling pest insect populations," Kanostsaid.

Armed with this new information, a number of practicalapplications are possible. Materials based on the chemistry of theinsect exoskeleton could be developed to make lightweight materials foraircraft and military armor, Kramer said.

"I sometimes speculate that we might help K-State coach BillSnyder develop better football helmets and shoulder pads for hisplayers," he said.

Collaborative research with scientists at the University ofKansas is in the beginning stages to analyze quantitatively themechanical properties of insect cuticles and to perform cuticle proteincross-linking experiments that are catalyzed by insect laccase, Kramersaid. KU scientists will test the strength of the syntheticcross-linked biopolymers that are created. This could be used for thedevelopment of strong, lightweight materials.

Both Beeman and Kramer also work at the Grain Marketing andProduction Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, UnitedStates Department of Agriculture, in Manhattan.

###

This research has been supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Kansas State University. "K-State Professors Discover Enzyme Responsible For Creation Of A Beetle's Hard Shell." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814170240.htm>.
Kansas State University. (2005, August 17). K-State Professors Discover Enzyme Responsible For Creation Of A Beetle's Hard Shell. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814170240.htm
Kansas State University. "K-State Professors Discover Enzyme Responsible For Creation Of A Beetle's Hard Shell." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814170240.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins