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1.  Identification of avian wax synthases 
BMC Biochemistry  2012;13:4.
Background
Bird species show a high degree of variation in the composition of their preen gland waxes. For instance, galliform birds like chicken contain fatty acid esters of 2,3-alkanediols, while Anseriformes like goose or Strigiformes like barn owl contain wax monoesters in their preen gland secretions. The final biosynthetic step is catalyzed by wax synthases (WS) which have been identified in pro- and eukaryotic organisms.
Results
Sequence similarities enabled us to identify six cDNAs encoding putative wax synthesizing proteins in chicken and two from barn owl and goose. Expression studies in yeast under in vivo and in vitro conditions showed that three proteins from chicken performed WS activity while a sequence from chicken, goose and barn owl encoded a bifunctional enzyme catalyzing both wax ester and triacylglycerol synthesis. Mono- and bifunctional WS were found to differ in their substrate specificities especially with regard to branched-chain alcohols and acyl-CoA thioesters. According to the expression patterns of their transcripts and the properties of the enzymes, avian WS proteins might not be confined to preen glands.
Conclusions
We provide direct evidence that avian preen glands possess both monofunctional and bifunctional WS proteins which have different expression patterns and WS activities with different substrate specificities.
doi:10.1186/1471-2091-13-4
PMCID: PMC3316144  PMID: 22305293
2.  Fatty acyl-CoA reductases of birds 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:64.
Background
Birds clean and lubricate their feathers with waxes that are produced in the uropygial gland, a holocrine gland located on their back above the tail. The type and the composition of the secreted wax esters are dependent on the bird species, for instance the wax ester secretion of goose contains branched-chain fatty acids and unbranched fatty alcohols, whereas that of barn owl contains fatty acids and alcohols both of which are branched. Alcohol-forming fatty acyl-CoA reductases (FAR) catalyze the reduction of activated acyl groups to fatty alcohols that can be esterified with acyl-CoA thioesters forming wax esters.
Results
cDNA sequences encoding fatty acyl-CoA reductases were cloned from the uropygial glands of barn owl (Tyto alba), domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) and domestic goose (Anser anser domesticus). Heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae showed that they encode membrane associated enzymes which catalyze a NADPH dependent reduction of acyl-CoA thioesters to fatty alcohols. By feeding studies of transgenic yeast cultures and in vitro enzyme assays with membrane fractions of transgenic yeast cells two groups of isozymes with different properties were identified, termed FAR1 and FAR2. The FAR1 group mainly synthesized 1-hexadecanol and accepted substrates in the range between 14 and 18 carbon atoms, whereas the FAR2 group preferred stearoyl-CoA and accepted substrates between 16 and 20 carbon atoms. Expression studies with tissues of domestic chicken indicated that FAR transcripts were not restricted to the uropygial gland.
Conclusion
The data of our study suggest that the identified and characterized avian FAR isozymes, FAR1 and FAR2, can be involved in wax ester biosynthesis and in other pathways like ether lipid synthesis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2091-12-64
PMCID: PMC3265415  PMID: 22151413

Results 1-2 (2)