Analysis of the chitin recognition mechanism of cuticle proteins from the soft cuticle of the silkworm, Bombyx mori

Toru Togawa, Hiroshi Nakato, Susumu Izumi

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Insect cuticle is composed mainly of chitin, a polymer of N-acetylglucosamine, and chitin-binding cuticle proteins. Four major cuticle proteins, BMCP30, 22, 18, and 17,2Cuticle proteins identified in the larval cuticle of silkworm, Bombyx mori, were previously referred as LCP30, 22, 18 and 17 (Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1218(1994)64; Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 27(1997)701; Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 122(1999)105). Since the expression of these genes is not restricted to larval stages, we have changed the nomenclature to BMCP30, 22, 18 and 17, standing for B. mori cuticle protein with the indicated molecular weight. have been previously identified and purified from the larval cuticle of silkworm, B. mori. We analyzed the chitin-binding activity of BMCP30 by use of chitin-affinity chromatography. The pH optimum for the binding of BMCP30 to chitin is 6.4, which corresponds to hemolymph pH. Competition experiments using chitooligosaccharides suggested that BMCP30 recognizes 4-6 mer of N-acetylglucosamine in chitin fiber as a unit for binding. The comparison of the binding properties of BMCP30 with those of BMCP18 showed that their binding activities to chitin are similar in a standard buffer but that BMCP30 binds to chitin more stably than BMCP18 in the presence of urea. BMCPs possess the RR-1 form of the R&R consensus, about 70 amino acids region conserved widely among cuticle proteins mainly from the soft cuticle of many insect and arthropod species. Analysis of the binding activity using deletion mutants of BMCPs revealed that this type of conserved region also functions as the chitin-binding domain, similarly to the RR-2 region previously shown to confer chitin binding. Thus, the extended R&R consensus is the general chitin-binding domain of cuticle proteins in Arthropoda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1067
Number of pages9
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the Enhancement of Center of Excellence, Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology, Science and Technology Agency, Japan.


  • Bombyx mori
  • Chitin
  • Chitin-binding domain
  • Cuticle
  • Cuticle protein
  • R&R consensus


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