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Date:8/29/2014

te maturation. Thus the pheromones help to synchronize female spawning and external fertilization by the males and so to increase the odds of reproductive success.

Tilapias also show this behavior in captivity, which makes them an ideal model system for reproducible biological assays. Tina Keller-Costa and her colleagues at the Marine Science Center at the University of the Algarve in Faro, Portugal, as well as the Biosynthesis/NMR Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, have now identified the chemical structure of the signaling molecules in tilapia males and studied their function. She collected urine samples from dominant males and purified the samples in several steps, testing them for biological activity as pheromones after each step.

Two steroids as main components in the urine

This procedure resulted in two pure substances whose chemical structures were elucidated using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). Their identity was confirmed by chemical synthesis: "The two structures are stereoisomers or mirror images of a pregnane-type steroid linked to glucuronic acid," Bernd Schneider, the head of the NMR lab in Jena, said, summarizing the results of the analysis.

Both males and females showed highly sensitive responses to the odor of these two steroids. Although the two pheromone components stimulate the hormonal system of the females and trigger spawning, they are not by themselves capable of reducing aggressive behavior in rival males. The researchers thus assume that the urine of dominant males must contain additional yet-to-be identified substances that contribute to this effect in a complex mixture.

Until now only very few fish pheromones have been chemically identified. "Our discovery will allow for further investigations, for example, of the mechanisms of perception and processing of these chemical signals by the brain in order to originate a respo
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Contact: Dr. Bernd Schneider
schneider@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1600
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert  

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