Mechanisms for the uptake and transport of carotenoids, essential nutrients for humans, are not well understood in any animal system. The Y (Yellow blood) gene, a critical cocoon color determinant in the silkworm Bombyx mori, controls the uptake of carotenoids into the intestinal mucosa and the silk gland. Here we provide evidence that the Y gene corresponds to the intracellular carotenoid-binding protein (CBP) gene. In the Y recessive strain, the absence of an exon, likely due to an incorrect mRNA splicing caused by a transposon-associated genomic deletion, generates a nonfunctional CBP mRNA, resulting in colorless hemolymph and white cocoons. Enhancement of carotenoid uptake and coloration of the white cocoon was achieved by germ-line transformation with the CBP gene. This study demonstrates the existence of a genetically facilitated intracellular process beyond passive diffusion for carotenoid uptake in the animal phyla, and paves the way for modulating silk color and lipid content through genetic engineering.
|Number of pages
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
|Published - May 22 2007
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