Sodefrin (Ser-Ile-Pro-Ser-Lys-Asp-Ala-Leu-Leu-Lys) is a female-attracting peptide pheromone secreted by the abdominal gland of the male red-bellied newt, Cynops pyrrhogaster. Sequence analysis of a cDNA encoding sodefrin revealed that the peptide is located in the C-terminal region of its precursor protein (residues 177-186 of preprosodefrin) and extended from its C-terminus by the tripeptide sequence Ile187-Ser188-Ala189 and flanked at its N-terminus by Leu174-Gly175-Arg 176. This suggests that sodefrin is generated by enzymatic cleavage at monobasic (Lys and Arg) sites within the precursor molecule. To demonstrate the presence in the abdominal gland of proteolytic enzymes capable of generating sodefrin, an enzymatic assay was developed using t-butoxycarbonyl (Boc)-Leu-Gly-Arg-4methylcoumaryl-7-amide (MCA) and Boc-Leu-Leu-Lys-MCA as synthetic substrates. A crude extract of the abdominal gland hydrolyzed both substrates to liberate 7-amino-4- methylcoumarin, suggesting that enzymes that generate sodefrin from its precursor molecule are present in the gland. The activity in the extract for cleaving Boc-Leu-Gly-Arg-MCA was optimal at pH 9.0 and 45°C and for Boc-Leu-Leu-Lys-MCA at pH 9.0 and 40°C. The effects of a range of specific inhibitors on activities in the extract suggest an involvement of enzymes belonging to the serine protease family. It was also demonstrated that enzymatic activity in an extract of the abdominal glands of sexually developed males was significantly (three- to six-fold; p<0.01) higher than that of sexually undeveloped males.
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