(Z)-7-dodecenyl acetate (Z7-12:Ac) is present in the urine of female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) approaching ovulation and functions as a female-to-male sex pheromone. Here we show that a significant fraction of the pheromone in the urine is bound to a protein, elephant serum albumin (ESA), and provide evidence for key physiological functions of urinary ESA. Our biochemical and behavioral experiments suggest a three-fold role of ESA in pheromone signaling: (1) transporting Z7-12:Ac from serum into urine; (2) extending the presence of the pheromone in the environment without hampering detection; and (3) targeting pheromone delivery to chemosensory organs through localized release of the ligand induced by a pH change. The exploitation of albumin in pheromone transport clearly distinguishes the elephant from other mammals studied, and complements the uniqueness of elephant anatomy, physiology, and behavior
691. Chem. Biol. 11, 1093-1100.