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Mass Spectrom Rev. 2002 Jul-Aug;21(4):220-43.

Analyzing the evolution of the opioid/orphanin gene family.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80210, USA.


Advances in molecular biology have made it possible to rapidly obtain the amino acid sequence of neuropeptide precursors-either by cloning and sequencing the cDNA that encodes the precursor, or by reconstructing the arrangement of exons and introns in a neuropeptide-coding gene through genomic approaches. The databases generated from these molecular approaches have been used to design probes to identify the cells that express the gene, or to ascertain the rate of expression of the gene, and even to predict the post-translational modifications that can generate functional neuropeptides from a biologically inert precursor. Although the power of these approaches is substantial, it is appreciated that a gene sequence or an mRNA sequence reflects the potential products that may be assembled in a secretory cell. To understand the functional capabilities of the secretory cell, the molecular genetics approaches must be combined with procedures that actually characterize the end-products generated by the secretory cell. Recent advances in two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry now make it possible to analyze neuropeptides from a relatively small amount of tissue. These procedures can reveal novel end-products, tissue-specific endoproteolytic cleavage events, and developmental shifts in post-translational processing schemes. A gene family that illustrates all of these processes and the advantages of combining genomics with proteomics is the opioid/orphanin gene family.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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