γ-Aminobutyric Acid, a Neurotransmitter, Induces Planktonic Abalone Larvae to Settle and Begin Metamorphosis

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Science  27 Apr 1979:
Vol. 204, Issue 4391, pp. 407-410
DOI: 10.1126/science.204.4391.407


γ-Aminobutyric acid (a simple amino acid and potent neurotransmitter in human brain and other tissues of higher animals) and certain of its congeners rapidly and synchronously induce planktonic larvae of the red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, to settle and commence behavioral and developmental metamorphosis. These naturally occurring inducers of algal origin apparently are responsible, in part, for the substrate-specific recruitment, induction of settling, and the onset of metamorphosis of abalone and other planktonic larvae upon specific algae which provide naturally favorable habitats for the young of these species in coastal waters. These observations provide a convenient experimental model for further analysis of the basic molecular mechanisms by which environmental and endogenous factors control the recruitment and development of planktonic larvae. Halogenated organic pesticides significantly interfere with larval settling, as quantified in a new bioassay based upon these findings.