This article reviews the current state of understanding of reproductive pheromones in amphibians, focusing mainly on the purification and characterization of peptide pheromones in newts of the genus Cynops, molecular cloning of cDNAs encoding the pheromone molecules, and hormonal control of secretion of these pheromones. Pheromones that attract sexually developed female Cynops pyrrhogaster and C. ensicauda newts were isolated from the male abdominal glands. The C. pyrrhogaster and C. ensicauda pheromones are peptides, designated sodefrin and silefrin, with the amino acid sequences SIPSKDALLK and SILSKDAQLK, respectively. Each pheromone attracts only conspecific females. Molecular cloning of cDNAs encoding sodefrin and silefrin revealed the presence of precursor proteins that are considered to generate these pheromone peptides. Pheromone precursor mRNA levels and radioimmunoassayable pheromone concentrations in the abdominal glands were elevated by prolactin and androgen. Sexual dimorphism and hormone dependency of the responsiveness of vomeronasal epithelium to sodefrin were noted. Significance of pheromones in the form of peptide for those performing reproductive behavior in an aquatic environment was also discussed.
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