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Chem Biol. 2006 Oct;13(10):1071-9.

A major urinary protein of the domestic cat regulates the production of felinine, a putative pheromone precursor.

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Sphingolipid Expression Laboratory, RIKEN Frontier Research System, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako-shi, Saitama 351-0198, Japan.


Domestic cats spray urine with species-specific odor for territorial marking. Felinine (2-amino-7-hydroxy-5,5-dimethyl-4-thiaheptanoic acid), a putative pheromone precursor, is excreted in cat urine. Here, we report that cauxin, a carboxylesterase excreted as a major urinary component, regulates felinine production. In vitro enzyme assays indicated that cauxin hydrolyzed the felinine precursor 3-methylbutanol-cysteinylglycine to felinine and glycine. Cauxin and felinine were excreted age dependently after 3 months of age. The age-dependent increases in cauxin and felinine excretion were significantly correlated. In mature cats, cauxin and felinine levels were sex-dependently correlated and were higher in males than in females. In headspace gas of cat urine, 3-mercapto-3-methyl-1-butanol, 3-mercapto-3-methylbutyl formate, 3-methyl-3-methylthio-1-butanol, and 3-methyl-3-(2-methyldisulfanyl)-1-butanol were identified as candidates for felinine derivatives. These findings demonstrate that cauxin-dependent felinine production is a cat-specific metabolic pathway, and they provide information for the biosynthetic mechanisms of species-specific molecules in mammals.

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