This study describes the identification of Drosophila yellow-f and yellow-f2 as dopachrome-conversion enzymes responsible for catalysing the conversion of dopachrome into 5,6-dihydroxyindole in the melanization pathway. Drosophilayellow-y gene and yellow-b, -c, -f and -f2 genes were expressed in an insect cell/baculovirus expression system and their corresponding recombinant proteins were screened for dopachrome-conversion enzyme activity. Among the yellow and yellow-related genes, the yellow-f and yellow-f2 genes were identified as the genes coding for Drosophila dopachrome-conversion enzyme based on the high activity of their recombinant proteins in catalysing the production of 5,6-dihydroxyindole from dopachrome. Both yellow-f and yellow-f2 are capable of mediating a decarboxylative structural rearrangement of dopachrome, as well as an isomerization/tautomerization of dopamine chrome and dopa methyl ester chrome. Northern hybridization revealed the transcription of yellow-f in larvae and pupae, but a high abundance of mRNA was observed in later larval and early pupal stages. In contrast, yellow-f2 transcripts were present at all stages, but high abundance of its mRNA was observed in later-stage pupae and adults. These data indicate that yellow-f and yellow-f2 complement each other during Drosophila development and that the yellow-f is involved in larval and pupal melanization, and yellow-f2 plays a major role in melanization reactions in Drosophila during later pupal and adult development. Results from this study provide the groundwork towards a better understanding of the physiological roles of the Drosophilayellow gene family.

Abbreviations used: DC, l-dopachrome; DCE, dopachrome-conversion enzyme; DHI, 5,6-dihydroxyindole; DHICA, 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid; l-dopa, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine; dopamine, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethylamine; HPLC-ED, HPLC with electrochemical detection; HTS, high-titre viral stocks; ORF, open reading frame; MOI, multiplicity of infection; MALDI-TOF, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization—time-of-flight.

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Author notes

1

These authors contributed equally to this study.