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FEBS J. 2012 Feb;279(3):437-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08436.x. Epub 2011 Dec 30.

Characterization of mucus-associated proteins from abalone (Haliotis) - candidates for chemical signaling.

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Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, Bangkok, Thailand.


Living in groups is a widespread phenomenon in the animal kingdom. For free-spawning aquatic animals, such as the abalone (Haliotis), being in the close proximity to potential mating partners enhances reproductive success. In this study, we investigated whether chemical cues could be present in abalone mucus that enable species-specific aggregation. A comparative MS analysis of mucus obtained from trailing or fixed stationary Haliotis asinina, and from seawater surrounding aggregations, indicated that water-soluble biomolecules are present and that these can stimulate sensory activity in conspecifics. Purified extracts of trail mucus contain at least three small proteins [termed H. asinina mucus-associated proteins (Has-MAPs)-1-3], which readily diffuse into the surrounding seawater and evoke a robust cephalic tentacle response in conspecifics. Mature Has-MAP-1 is approximately 9.9 kDa in size, and has a glycine-rich N-terminal region. Has-MAP-2 is approximately 6.2 kDa in size, and has similarities to schistosomin, a protein that is known to play a role in mollusc reproduction. The mature Has-MAP-3 is approximately 12.5 kDa in size, and could only be identified within trail mucus of animals outside of the reproductive season. All three Has-MAP genes are expressed at high levels within secretory cells of the juvenile abalone posterior pedal gland, consistent with a role in scent marking. We infer from these results that abalone mucus-associated proteins are candidate chemical cues that could provide informational cues to conspecifics living in close proximity and, given their apparent stability and hydrophilicity, animals further afield.

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