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Prog Neurobiol. 2007 May;82(1):33-55. Epub 2007 Feb 11.

Neuropeptidergic signaling in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Functional Genomics and Proteomics Unit, Department of Biology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans joins the menagerie of behavioral model systems next to the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the marine snail Aplysia californica and the mouse. In contrast to Aplysia, which contains 20,000 neurons having cell bodies of hundreds of microns in diameter, C. elegans harbors only 302 tiny neurons from which the cell lineage is completely described, as is the case for all the other somatic cells. As such, this nervous system appears at first sight incommensurable with those of higher organisms, although genome-wide comparison of predicted C. elegans genes with their counterparts in vertebrates revealed many parallels. Together with its short lifespan and ease of cultivation, suitability for high-throughput genetic screenings and genome-wide RNA interference approaches, access to an advanced genetic toolkit and cell-ablation techniques, it seems that this tiny transparent organism of only 1mm in length has nothing to hide. Recently, highly exciting developments have occurred within the field of neuropeptidergic signaling in C. elegans, not only because of the availability of a sequenced genome since 1998, but especially because of state of the art post genomic technologies, that allow for molecular characterization of the signaling molecules. Here, we will focus on endogenous, bioactive (neuro)peptides and mainly discuss biosynthesis, peptide sequence information, localization and G-protein coupled receptors of the three major peptide families in C. elegans.

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