Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 121-129

First online:

A comparison of lizard claw keratin proteins with those of avian beak and claw

  • J. M. GillespieAffiliated withDivision of Protein Chemistry, CSIRO
  • , R. C. MarshallAffiliated withDivision of Protein Chemistry, CSIRO
  • , E. F. WoodsAffiliated withDivision of Protein Chemistry, CSIRO

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The outer shell of translucent keratin has been dissected from the claws of the lizard,Varanus gouldii. It is free of calcium and hydroxyproline, in contrast to the fibrous support, and contains proteins rich in glycine (28 residues %) and half-cystine (13%). These proteins have been obtained in soluble form by treatment with 2-mercaptoethanol in 8M urea at pH 11 followed by alkylation with iodoacetate to giveS-carboxymethyl kerateines. The three major components resolved by SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis have been isolated by fractional precipitation with ammonium sulfate followed by chromatography on DEAE-cellulose or Sephadex. Two of the components, low in tryptophan content, appear to be homologous and are relatively homogeneous with respect to both size and charge whereas the third, a tryptophan-rich material, appears to contain about 20 different molecular species as judged by gel electrophoresis in urea at pH 8.9. The molecular weights of two of the isolated omponents (the tryptophan-rich and the major of the two tryptophanpoor components) are about 13000 as determined by equilibrium ultracentrifugation studies.

The major lizard claw proteins are therefore similar in size and glycine content to the proteins of avian beak and claw but differ in containing more cystine and less tyrosine. On the other hand, the reptilian proteins resemble the mammalian high-tyrosine proteins (Type II) in cystine content and overall amino acid composition, but differ in size with the lizard proteins being larger. It is suggested however that they are unlikely to be homologous.

Key words

Varanus Lizard Claw Keratin Electrophoresis Protein Fractionation Glycine Tryptophan