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Genome-wide identification and characterization of ATP-binding cassette transporters in the silkworm, Bombyx mori

Shumin Liu, Shun Zhou, Ling Tian, Enen Guo, Yunxia Luan, Jianzhen Zhang and Sheng Li*

Author Affiliations

Key Laboratory of Developmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200032, China

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:491  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-491

Published: 7 October 2011



The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter superfamily is the largest transporter gene family responsible for transporting specific molecules across lipid membranes in all living organisms. In insects, ABC transporters not only have important functions in molecule transport, but also play roles in insecticide resistance, metabolism and development.


From the genome of the silkworm, Bombyx mori, we have identified 51 putative ABC genes which are classified into eight subfamilies (A-H) by phylogenetic analysis. Gene duplication is very evident in the ABCC and ABCG subfamilies, whereas gene numbers and structures are well conserved in the ABCD, ABCE, ABCF, and ABCH subfamilies. Microarray analysis revealed that expression of 32 silkworm ABC genes can be detected in at least one tissue during different developmental stages, and the expression patterns of some of them were confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR. A large number of ABC genes were highly expressed in the testis compared to other tissues. One of the ABCG genes, BmABC002712, was exclusively and abundantly expressed in the Malpighian tubule implying that BmABC002712 plays a tissue-specific role. At least 5 ABCG genes, including BmABC005226, BmABC005203, BmABC005202, BmABC010555, and BmABC010557, were preferentially expressed in the midgut, showing similar developmental expression profiles to those of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E)-response genes. 20E treatment induced the expression of these ABCG genes in the midgut and RNA interference-mediated knockdown of USP, a component of the 20E receptor, decreased their expression, indicating that these midgut-specific ABCG genes are 20E-responsive.


In this study, a genome-wide analysis of the silkworm ABC transporters has been conducted. A comparison of ABC transporters from 5 insect species provides an overview of this vital gene superfamily in insects. Moreover, tissue- and stage-specific expression data of the silkworm ABCG genes lay a foundation for future analysis of their physiological function and hormonal regulation.