, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 121-131

Pheromone interactions and ionic communication in gametes of aquatic fungusAllomyces macrogynus

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The flagellate male and female gametes of the aquatic fungusAllomyces macrogynus are each attracted to a sexual pheromone produced by the opposite gamete type. The sperm attractant, sirenin, causes chemotaxis to female gametes. Examination of sperm chemotaxis shows that the pheromone influences the frequency of directional changes and the duration of a chemotactic run. Physiological experiments using tertiary amine local anesthetics or calcium chelators such as EGTA demonstrate that sirenin stimulates the influx of calcium ions (Ca2+) into the sperm cytoplasm. Radiological experiments with45CaCl2 have demonstrated this calcium flux directly. Structurally, sirenin is an oxygenated sesquiterpene that consists of a cyclopropyl ring attached onto an isohexenyl side chain. The pheromone displays a threshold concentration for attraction at 10 pM in chemotaxis bioassays. Structure-activity relationships with racemic sirenin and sirenin analogs indicate that biological activity requires a terminal hydroxymethyl group on the side chain. In addition, a hydrophobic group must be present at the other end of the sirenin molecule. Besides sirenin, the sperm cells ofA. macrogynus produce a female attractant, parisin. While the molecular nature of this attractant is not completely resolved, some general features of the molecule suggest it may be similar structurally to sirenin.