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Isolation and characterization of abundantly-expressed cDNAs from the Harderian gland of the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis: Colubridae)

Steglich, Carolyn S., Brown, Michael E., Mitchell, Elaina M., Millen, Michelle, Rehorek, Susan J.
Comparative biochemistry and physiology 2019 v.235 pp. 22-28
Thamnophis sirtalis, cDNA libraries, complementary DNA, epithelium, genome, ligands, messenger RNA, protein secretion, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, signal peptide, snakes, transporters, vomeronasal organ
The Harderian gland (HG) is an orbital structure whose proteinaceous secretions pass through the nasolacrimal duct to the vomeronasal organ (VNO). Though these three structures occur in many tetrapod vertebrates, the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is one of the few vertebrates in which the passage of the proteinaceous secretions have been experimentally shown. Secreted proteins from the HG may function as transporters for chemical signals to the VNO epithelium. To investigate the proteins being produced by the HG of the garter snake, cDNA libraries were constructed from HG mRNA, and several individual cDNAs were analyzed by sequencing, RT-qPCR, and PCR on genomic DNA. Two of the three cDNAs that were characterized are abundantly expressed only in the Harderian gland and contain putative signal sequences for secretion, which makes them candidates for transporter proteins secreted from the HG. One is a member of the large lipocalin family of proteins, based on its similarity to other members of that protein family. Many lipocalins are binding/carrier proteins for a variety of ligands. The other is a family of proteins, with five members identified so far, all of unknown structure and function and present in the garter snake genome but not in other squamate genomes.