A zymogel enhances the self-cleaning abilities of the pilot whale (Globicephala melas)

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Baum, C. , Meyer, W. , Stelzer, R. , Fleischer, L. G. and Siebers, D. (2001): A zymogel enhances the self-cleaning abilities of the pilot whale (Globicephala melas) , Comparative biochemistry and physiology a-molecular and integrative physiology, 130 , pp. 835-847 .
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Summary. Enzyme activity in the stratum corneum of the pilot whale Globicephala melas was investigated employing colorimetric enzyme screening assays combined with NATIVE PAGE, size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and histochemical staining procedures. Applying different substrates, several enzymes were detected. The histochemical demonstration of some selected hydrolytic enzymes enriched in the stratum corneum showed high extracellular accumulation. As demonstrated by size exclusion chromatography, high molar mass aggregates were built up from a glycoprotein-rich 20-30 kD fraction. Using NATIVE PAGE experiments under non reducing conditions, a selection of five degrading enzymes was recovered within the above-reported aggregates.Activity of extracellular aggregate-attached enzymes in the superficial layer of the stratum corneum exhibited no remarkable decrease potentially resulting from self-degradation. We thus conclude that due to their enclosure within the micro-environment of aggregates a zymogel is formed and autolysis of the stratum corneum is reduced. With respect to the skin surface, the zymogel with hydrolytic activities covering major parts of it enhances the self-cleaning abilities of the skin of the pilot whale based on physical prequesites by hydrolysing adhesive glycoconjugates of settling biofouling organisms considered as primary steps in fouling.

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