The pancrustacean theory groups crustaceans and hexapods (once thought to comprise separate clades within the Arthropoda) into a single clade. A key feature common to all pancrustaceans is their chitinous exoskeleton, with a major contribution by cuticular proteins. Among these, are the CPAP3's, a family of cuticular proteins, first identified in the hexapod Drosophila melanogaster and characterized by an N-terminal signaling peptide and three chitin-binding domains. In this study, CPAP3 proteins were mined from a transcriptomic library of a decapod crustacean, the crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus. Phylogenetic analysis of other CPAP3 proteins from hexapods and other crustaceans showed a high degree of conservation. Characterization of the crayfish proteins, designated CqCPAP3's, suggested a major role for CPAP3'sin cuticle formation. Loss-of-function experiments using RNAi supported such a notion by demonstrating crucial roles for several CqCPAP3 proteins during molting. A putative mode of action for the CqCPAP3 proteins -theoretically binding three chitin strands- was suggested by the structural data obtained from a representative recombinant CqCPAP3. The similarities between the CqCPAP3 proteins and their hexapod homologues further demonstrated common genetic and proteinaceous features of cuticle formation in pancrustaceans, thereby reinforcing the linkage between these two highly important phylogenetic groups.
ASJC Scopus subject areas