Previous analysis of PCR products derived from total RNA from the abdominal gland of the male newt, Cynops pyrrhogaster, inhabiting the Nara area of Japan led to the identification of a gene encoding [Val8]sodefrin, as well as the female-attracting peptide pheromone, sodefrin. In this study, purification of this sodefrin variant from the abdominal glands of male newts from the Nara area was accomplished using gel-filtration chromatography and reversed-phase HPLC. Amino acid sequence analysis and mass spectrometry confirmed that the final product was [Val8]sodefrin. A full-length cDNA encoding the biosynthetic precursor of [Val8]sodefrin was cloned and characterized. The deduced amino acid sequence of prepro[Val8]sodefrin showed 86.2% identity with that of the sodefrin precursor. The [Val8]sodefrin variant potently attracted females from the Nara area, but the variant was much less or not effective in attracting females captured in the Niigata and Chiba areas. The term aonirin ("aoni" from "aoni-yoshi", the conventional epithet of Nara) is proposed to designate this region-specific pheromone. It is speculated that the coevolution of a novel pheromone and its complementary receptor in the Nara newts may lead to reproductive isolation and eventual differentiation into a separate species.
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