A glycoprotein of neurohypophysial origin was found to have cofractionated with FSH prepared from pituitary glands of the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Antiserum raised against this preparation contained high antibody titres and affinity for the neurohypophysial component and allowed development of a specific radioimmunoassay to monitor its purification and distribution in the brain. Immunocytochemistry revealed that the glycoprotein was concentrated in the pars nervosa and associated nerve tracts passing through the median eminence to the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei; similar distributions were observed in turtles and rats. The antiserum to the turtle material bound radiolabelled rat vasopressin (VP)-neurophysin and precipitated precursors of this neurophysin, but it did not cross-react with rat oxytocin-neurophysin. An amino-terminal alanine was also consistent with the structure of rat VP-neurophysin, but the turtle molecule was larger than the corresponding rat molecule. Limited tryptic digests of the turtle glycoprotein contained two components, one of which bound to lysine VP.
Both components contained carbohydrate, but only the one which bound to VP cross-reacted in a radioimmunoassay for rat VP-neurophysin. The apparent surge in plasma immuno-FSH at the time of oviposition previously described in the turtle probably represented release of a neurophysin-like 'carrier' molecule associated with secretion of the neurohypophysial hormone (e.g. arginine vasotocin; AVT) responsible for oviduct contractility. These data suggest that the neurohypophysial glycoprotein represents a partially processed AVT precursor and provide the first biochemical evidence of a mammalian-like biosynthetic pathway for neurohypophysial hormones in a non-mammalian species.