MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL-For the rats of Hamelin, it was the Pied Piper's tune. For the destructive sea lamprey of the Great Lakes, it's a chemical attractant, or pheromone, released by lamprey larvae living in streambeds. Following the pheromone trail, adults are drawn to streams favorable for spawning. Researchers have long wanted to identify the pheromone so it could be synthesized and used to control the sea lamprey, which laid waste to Great Lakes fisheries of lake trout and other species in the mid-20th century. Now, a team of University of Minnesota researchers has identified the three major components of the pheromone and synthesized the principal one, a novel steroid akin to a shark steroid that possesses anticancer activity. This is the first migratory attractant to be identified in any fish. The work is the cover story for the November issue of Nature Chemical Biology and will be published online in the journal Sunday, Oct. 2.
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