In the present study, we show the isolation and characterization of the protein haemoporin, which constitutes the second most abundant protein fraction in the haemolymph of the marine gastropod Aplysia californica. Although Aplysia is commonly used to investigate the molecular basis of learning, not much is known about the proteins in its haemolymph, which is in contact with the neurons owing to the open circulatory system of molluscs. In the native state, haemoporin is a macromolecular complex forming a cylinder with a central solvent-filled pore. The native complex most probably is a homopentamer made up from 70 kDa subunits with a molecular mass of 360 kDa and a sedimentation coefficient of 11.7 S. Prediction of the secondary structure by CD spectroscopy revealed that haemoporin contains 36% α-helices and 19% β-strands. An absorption band in the 300–400 nm region indicates that haemoporin probably contains a bound substance. Haemoporin also contains a below average amount of tryptophan as evident from absorption and fluorescence spectra. The specific absorption coefficient at 280 nm (a280 nm, 1 mg/ml) varies between 0.42 and 0.59 l·g−1·cm−1 depending on the method. The function of the protein is not yet known, but there are structural parallels between haemoporin and a pore protein reported previously in the haemolymph of another marine gastropod Megathura crenulata. The alanine-rich N-terminal sequence (AAVPEAAAEATAEAAPVSEF) is unique among protein sequences and indicates an α-helical structure. Whereas one side of the helix is hydrophobic and faces the interior of the protein, the other side contains a glutamic cluster, which may form the channel of the pore in the quaternary structure. Thus both proteins might belong to a new class of haemolymph proteins present in the haemolymph of marine gastropods.

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