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Courtship Pheromone Use in a Model Urodele, the Mexican Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

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Sex pheromones have been shown to constitute a crucial aspect of salamander reproduction. Until now, courtship pheromones of Salamandridae and Plethodontidae have been intensively studied, but information on chemical communication in other urodelan families is essentially lacking. The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum, Ambystomatidae) has a courtship display that suggests a key role for chemical communication in the orchestration of its sexual behavior, but no sex pheromones have yet been characterized from this species. Here we combined whole transcriptome analyses of the male cloaca with proteomic analyses of water in which axolotls were allowed to court to show that male axolotls secrete multiple ca. 20 kDa glycosylated sodefrin precursor-like factor (SPF) proteins during courtship. In combination with phylogenetic analyses, our data show that the male cloaca essentially secretes a courtship-specific clade of SPF proteins that is orthologous to salamandrid courtship pheromones. In addition, we identified an SPF protein for which no orthologs have been described from other salamanders so far. Overall, our study advocates a central role for SPF proteins during the courtship display of axolotls and adds knowledge on pheromone use in a previously unexplored deep evolutionary branch of salamander evolution.
Tijdschrift: nature scientific reports
ISSN: 2045-2322
Issue: 6
Pagina's: 1-9
Aantal pagina's: 9
Jaar van publicatie:2016
Trefwoorden:herpetology, molecular evolution