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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Nov 20;98(24):14000-5.

Identification of neuropeptide-like protein gene families in Caenorhabditiselegans and other species.

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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School Department of Pathology, 149-7202 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Neuropeptides play critical roles in synaptic signaling in all nervous systems. Unlike classical neurotransmitters, peptidergic neurotransmitters are encoded as preproproteins that are posttranslationally processed to yield bioactive neuropeptides. To identify novel peptidergic neurotransmitters, the Caenorhabditis elegans genome was searched for predicted proteins with the structural hallmarks of neuropeptide preproproteins. Thirty-two C. elegans neuropeptide-like protein (nlp) genes were identified. The nlp genes define at least 11 families of putative neuropeptides with unique motifs; similar expressed sequence tags were identified in other invertebrate species for all 11 families. Six of these families are defined by putative bioactive motifs (FAFA, GGxYamide, MRxamide, LQFamide, LxDxamide, and GGARAF); the remaining five families are related to allatostatin, myomodulin, buccalin/drosulfakinin, orcokinin, and APGWamide neuropeptides (MGL/Famide, FRPamide, MSFamide, GFxGF, and YGGWamide families, respectively). Most C. elegans nlp gene expression is in neurons. The C. elegans nlp genes and similar genes encoding putative neuropeptides in other species are likely to play diverse roles in nervous system function.

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