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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2010;692:98-137.

Neuropeptide gene families in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Biology, City College of the City University of New York, USA.


Neuropeptides are short sequences ofamino acids that function in all multicellular organisms to communicate information between cells. The first sequence ofa neuropeptide was reported in 1970' and the number of identified neuropeptides remained relatively small until the 1990s when the DNA sequence of multiple genomes revealed treasure troves ofinformation. Byblasting away at the genome, gene families, the sizes ofwhich were previously unknown, could now be determined. This information has led to an exponential increase in the number of putative neuropeptides and their respective gene families. The molecular biology age greatly benefited the neuropeptide field in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Its genome was among the first to be sequenced and this allowed us the opportunity to screen the genome for neuropeptide genes. Initially, the screeningwas slow, as the Genefinder and BLAST programs had difficulty identifying small genes and peptides. However, as the bioinformatics programs improved, the extent of the neuropeptide gene families in C. elegans gradually emerged.

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