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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59076. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059076. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

The evolution and diversity of SALMFamide neuropeptides.

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Queen Mary University of London, School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, London, United Kingdom.


The SALMFamides are a family of neuropeptides that act as muscle relaxants in echinoderms. Two types of SALMFamides have been identified: L-type (e.g. the starfish neuropeptides S1 and S2) with the C-terminal motif LxFamide (x is variable) and F-type with the C-terminal motif FxFamide. In the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (class Echinoidea) there are two SALMFamide genes, one encoding L-type SALMFamides and a second encoding F-type SALMFamides, but hitherto it was not known if this applies to other echinoderms. Here we report the identification of SALMFamide genes in the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus (class Holothuroidea) and the starfish Patiria miniata (class Asteroidea). In both species there are two SALMFamide genes: one gene encoding L-type SALMFamides (e.g. S1 in P. miniata) and a second gene encoding F-type SALMFamides plus one or more L-type SALMFamides (e.g. S2-like peptide in P. miniata). Thus, the ancestry of the two SALMFamide gene types traces back to the common ancestor of echinoids, holothurians and asteroids, although it is not clear if the occurrence of L-type peptides in F-type SALMFamide precursors is an ancestral or derived character. The gene sequences also reveal a remarkable diversity of SALMFamide neuropeptides. Originally just two peptides (S1 and S2) were isolated from starfish but now we find that in P. miniata, for example, there are sixteen putative SALMFamide neuropeptides. Thus, the SALMFamides would be a good model system for experimental analysis of the physiological significance of neuropeptide "cocktails" derived from the same precursor protein.

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