Characterization of Aplysia attractin, the first water-borne peptide pheromone in invertebrates

Sherry D. Painter, Bret Clough, Rebecca W. Garden, Jonathan V. Sweedler, Gregg T. Nagle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although animals in the genus Aplysia are solitary during most of the year, they form breeding aggregations during the reproductive season. The aggregations contain both mating and egg-laying animals and are associated with masses of egg cordons. The egg cordons are a source of pheromones that establish and maintain the aggregation, but none of the pheromonal factors have been chemically characterized. In these studies, specimens of Aplysia were induced to lay eggs, the egg cordons collected and eluted, and the eluates fractionated by C18 reversed-phase HPLC. Four peak fractions were bioassayed in a T-maze. All four increased the number of animals attracted to a nonlaying conspecific and were thus subjected to compositional and microsequence analysis. Each contained the same NH2-terminal peptide sequence. The full-length peptide ('attractin') was isolated from the albumen gland, a large exocrine organ that packages the eggs into a cordon. The complete 58-residue sequence was obtained, and it matched that predicted by an albumen gland cDNA. Mass spectrometry showed that attractin is 21 wt. % carbohydrate as the result of N-linked glycosylation. T-maze bioassays confirmed that the full-length peptide is attractive. Attractin is the first water-borne peptide pheromone characterized in molluscs, and the first in invertebrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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