Many metazoans start germ cell development during embryogenesis, while some metazoans possessing pluripotent stem cells undergo postembryonic germ cell development. The latter reproduce asexually but develop germ cells from pluripotent stem cells or dormant primordial germ cells when they reproduce sexually. Sexual induction of the planarian Dugesia ryukyuensis is an important model for postembryonic germ cell development. In this experimental system, hermaphroditic reproductive organs are differentiated in presumptive gonadal regions by the administration of a crude extract from sexual planarians to asexual ones. However, the substances involved in the first event during postembryonic germ cell development, i.e., ovarian development, remain unknown. Here, we aimed to identify a bioactive compound associated with postembryonic ovarian development. Bioassay-guided fractionation identified Ê-tryptophan (Trp) on the basis of electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry, circular dichroism, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Originally masked by a large amount of L-Trp, D-Trp was detected by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. The ovary-inducing activity of D-Trp was 500 times more potent than that of L-Trp. This is the first report describing a role for an intrinsic D-amino acid in postembryonic germ cell development. Our findings provide a novel insight into the mechanisms of germ cell development regulated by low-molecular weight bioactive compounds.
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