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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2014 Feb 1;197:43-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.12.002. Epub 2013 Dec 15.

Neuropeptides and polypeptide hormones in echinoderms: new insights from analysis of the transcriptome of the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus.

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Queen Mary University of London, School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK.
Queen Mary University of London, School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK. Electronic address:


Echinoderms are of special interest for studies in comparative endocrinology because of their phylogenetic position in the animal kingdom as deuterostomian invertebrates. Furthermore, their pentaradial symmetry as adult animals provides a unique context for analysis of the physiological and behavioral roles of peptide signaling systems. Here we report the first extensive survey of neuropeptide and peptide hormone precursors in a species belonging to the class Holothuroidea. Transcriptome sequence data obtained from the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus were analyzed to identify homologs of precursor proteins that have recently been identified in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (class Echinoidea). A total of 17 precursor proteins have been identified in A. japonicus, including precursors of peptides related to thyrotropin-releasing hormone, pedal peptide/orcokinin-type peptides, AN peptides/tachykinins, luqins, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), GPA2-type glycoprotein hormone subunits and bursicon. In addition, an unusual finding was an A. japonicus calcitonin-type precursor protein (AjCTLPP), the first to be discovered that comprises two calcitonin-like peptides; this contrasts with the products of the alternatively-spliced calcitonin/CGRP gene in vertebrates, which comprise either calcitonin or CGRP. Collectively, the data obtained provide new insights on the evolution and diversity of neuropeptides and polypeptide hormones. Furthermore, because A. japonicus is one of several sea cucumber species that are used for human consumption, our findings may have practical and economic impact by providing a basis for neuroendocrine-based strategies to improve methods of aquaculture.


Apostichopus japonicus; Echinoderm; Evolution; Neuropeptide; Sea cucumber

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