A specific mosquito enzyme, 3-hydroxykynurenine transaminase (HKT), is involved in the processing of toxic metabolic intermediates of the tryptophan metabolic pathway. The HKT enzymatic product, xanthurenic acid, is required for Plasmodium spp. development in the mosquito vectors. Therefore, an inhibitor of HKT may not only be a mosquitocide but also a malaria-transmission blocker. In this work, we present a study investigating the evolution of HKT, which is a lineage-specific duplication of an alanine glyoxylate aminotransferases (AGT) in mosquitoes. Synteny analyses, together with the phylogenetic history of the AGT family, suggests that HKT and the mosquito AGTs are paralogous that were formed via a duplication event in their common ancestor. Furthermore, 41 amino acid sites with significant evidence of positive selection were identified, which could be responsible for biochemical and functional evolution and the stability of conformational stabilization. To get a deeper understanding of the evolution of ligands’ capacity and the ligand-binding mechanism of HKT, the sequence and the 3D homology model of the common ancestor of HKT and AGT in mosquitoes, ancestral mosquito AGT (AncMosqAGT), were inferred and built. The homology model along with 3-hydroxykynurenine, kynurenine, and alanine were used in docking experiments to predict the binding capacity and ligand-binding mode of the new substrates related to toxic metabolites detoxification. Our study provides evidence for the dramatic biochemical evolution of the key detoxifying enzyme and provides potential sites that could hinder the detoxification function, which may be used in mosquito larvicide and design.

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