Chemical Analysis of Prey-Derived Vomeronasal Stimulants
Earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) are one of the major prey of garter snakes (Thamnophis sp.). Accurate recognition of this prey involves detection of chemical substances specific to earthworms. Garter snakes respond to earthworm preparations by tongue flicking and attack (Wilde, 1938; Burghardt, 1966; Halpern Kubie, 1980), responses is mediated by the vomeronasal system (Burghardt and Pruitt, 1975; Halpern and Frumin, 1979; Kubie and Halpern, 1979). In an attempt to understand the mole-molecular details of the attractive properties of compounds and their function/structure relationships and signal transduction in vomeronasal system of garter snakes, our laboratory has undertaken an extensive effort to isolate, purify, and characterize the chemoattractive agents. We have isolated several proteins from earthworm wash (Wang, Chen, Jiang and Halpern, 1988) and electric shock-induced earthworm secretion (Jiang, Inouchi, Wang and Halpern, 1990) that elicit attach by snakes. A 20 kDa protein from electric shock-induced secretion was characterized and found to bind in a saturable and reversible manner to membranes obtained from the sensory epithelium of the vomeronasal organ (Jiang et al., 1990). When this protein is applied to the vomeronasal epithelium of the garter snake, an increase in the neural firing rate is detected in the accessory olfactory bulb (Jiang et al., 1990). In this paper we present chemical, physical, and biological properties of another snake-attractive protein, a low molecular weight protein (LMW), obtained from earthworm wash (EWW).
KeywordsRelative Molecular Mass Vomeronasal Organ Garter Snake Accessory Olfactory Bulb Tongue Flick
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