The P450 enzymes (mixed function oxidases, cytochrome P450 monooxygenases), a diverse class of enzymes found in virtually all insect tissues, fulfill many important tasks, from the synthesis and degradation of ecdysteroids and juvenile hormones to the metabolism of foreign chemicals of natural or synthetic origin. This diversity in function is achieved by a diversity in structure, as insect genomes probably carry about 100 P450 genes, sometimes arranged in clusters, and each coding for a different P450 enzyme. Both microsomal and mitochondrial P450s are present in insects and are best studied by heterologous expression of their cDNA and reconstitution of purified enzymes. P450 genes are under complex regulation, with induction playing a central role in the adaptation to plant chemicals and regulatory mutations playing a central role in insecticide resistance. Polymorphisms in induction or constitutive expression allow insects to scan their P450 gene repertoire for the appropriate response to chemical insults, and these evolutionary pressures in turn maintain P450 diversity.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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