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Parasitology. 2005;131 Suppl:S41-55.

Neuropeptide signalling systems in flatworms.

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Parasitology Research Group, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK.


Two distinct families of neuropeptides are known to endow platyhelminth nervous systems - the FMRFamide-like peptides (FLPs) and the neuropeptide Fs (NPFs). Flatworm FLPs are structurally simple, each 4-6 amino acids in length with a carboxy terminal aromatic-hydrophobic-Arg-Phe-amide motif. Thus far, four distinct flatworm FLPs have been characterized, with only one of these from a parasite. They have a widespread distribution within the central and peripheral nervous system of every flatworm examined, including neurones serving the attachment organs, the somatic musculature and the reproductive system. The only physiological role that has been identified for flatworm FLPs is myoexcitation. Flatworm NPFs are believed to be invertebrate homologues of the vertebrate neuropeptide Y (NPY) family of peptides. Flatworm NPFs are 36-39 amino acids in length and are characterized by a caboxy terminal GRPRFamide signature and conserved tyrosine residues at positions 10 and 17 from the carboxy terminal. Like FLPs, NPF occurs throughout flatworm nervous systems, although less is known about its biological role. While there is some evidence for a myoexcitatory action in cestodes and flukes, more compelling physiological data indicate that flatworm NPF inhibits cAMP levels in a manner that is characteristic of NPY action in vertebrates. The widespread expression of these neuropeptides in flatworm parasites highlights the potential of these signalling systems to yield new targets for novel anthelmintics. Although platyhelminth FLP and NPF receptors await identification, other molecules that play pivotal roles in neuropeptide signalling have been uncovered. These enzymes, involved in the biosynthesis and processing of flatworm neuropeptides, have recently been described and offer other distinct and attractive targets for therapeutic interference.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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