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Male house mice produce large quantities of major urinary proteins MUPs, which function to bind and transport volatile pheromones, though they may also function as scavengers that bind and excrete toxic compounds ‘toxic waste hypothesis’. In this study, we demonstrate the presence of an industrial chemical, 2,4-di-tert-butylphenol DTBP, in the urine of wild-derived house mice Mus musculus musculus. Addition of guanidine hydrochloride to male and female urine resulted in an increased release of DTBP. This increase was only observed in the high molecular weight fractions HMWF; > 3 kDa separated from male or female urine, suggesting that the increased release of DTBP was likely due to the denaturation of MUPs and the subsequent release of MUP-bound DTBP. Furthermore, when DTBP was added to a HMWF isolated from male urine, an increase in 2-sec-butyl-4,5-dihydrothiazole SBT, the major ligand of MUPs and a male-specific pheromone, was observed, indicating that DTBP was bound to MUPs and displaced SBT. These results suggest that DTBP is a MUP ligand. Moreover, we found evidence for competitive ligand binding between DTBP and SBT, suggesting that males potentially face a tradeoff between eliminating toxic wastes versus transporting pheromones. Our findings support the hypothesis that MUPs bind and eliminate toxic wastes, which may provide the most important fitness benefits of excreting large quantities of these proteins.

Autor: Jae Kwak , Eva Strasser, Ken Luzynski, Michaela Thoß, Dustin J. Penn



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