A lepidopteran orthologue of reaper reveals functional conservation and evolution of IAP antagonists

B. Bryant, Y. Zhang, C. Zhang, C. P. Santos, R. J. Clem, L. Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Genetic studies in Drosophila melanogaster have revealed that inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins and IAP antagonists such as reaper play a pivotal role in controlling cell death in insects. Interestingly, although the sequences and structures of IAPs are highly conserved, the sequence of IAP antagonists diverged very rapidly during evolution, making their identification difficult. Using a customized bioinformatics approach, we identified an IAP antagonist, IAP-binding motif 1 (Ibm1), from the genome of the silkworm Bombyx mori. This is the first reaper/grim orthologue identified in a nondipteran insect. Previous analysis indicated that both Reaper and Grim induce cell death through their N-terminal IBM as well as the Grim-helix3 (GH3) domain. Functional studies indicated that Ibm1 binds to an IAP protein from B. mori, BmIAP1, and induces apoptosis in insect cells via the IAP-binding motif, a seven amino acid sequence that is highly conserved in all IAP antagonists. Interestingly, Ibm1 also contains a region that is a statistically significant match to the GH3 domain. Mutational analysis indicated that the GH3-like motif in Ibm1 has an important supportive role in IAP-antagonist function and can trigger cell death under certain conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-351
Number of pages11
JournalInsect Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Insect Science


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