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Brain Res. 1997 Sep 12;768(1-2):224-32.

Invertebrate proenkephalin: delta opioid binding sites in leech ganglia and immunocytes.

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Centre de Biologie Cellulaire, Laboratoire de Phylogénie Moléculaire des Annélides EA DRED, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France.


The leech Theromyzon tessulatum and the marine mussel Mytilus edulis immunocytes contain a mammalian-like proenkephalin molecule. The opioid precursor was purified by gel permeation chromatography, anti-Met- and Leu-enkephalin-affinity column separation and then by reversed-phase HPLC. The amino acid sequence analysis, determined by Edman degradation, enzymatic treatments and matrix assisted laser desorption time of flight. The structure of the leech proenkephalin material demonstrates considerable amino acid sequence similarity with amphibian proenkephalin (e.g. 25.4% with Xenopus laevis) but it is smaller, 15 kDa vs. 30 kDa. In contrast, Mytilus proenkephalin is not only larger (26 kDa) but it exhibits a higher sequence identity with guinea pig proenkephalin (50%). Both of the invertebrate materials possess Met-enkephalin and Leu-enkephalin in a ratio of 3:1 for Mytilus and 1:2 in the leech. They also contain Met-enkephalin-Arg-Gly-Leu and Met-enkephalin-Arg-Phe sequences that are flanked by dibasic amino acid residues, demonstrating cleavage sites. Furthermore, using sequence comparison with bovine proenkephalin A (209-237), enkelytin (FAEPLPSEEEGESYSKEVPEMEKRYGGFM), an antibacterial peptide is found in the proenkephalin of both animals and it exhibits a 98% sequence identity with mammalian material. Finally, opioid binding experiments demonstrate the presence in leech ganglia and immunocytes of delta1 and delta2 opioid receptor subtypes as also found human and Mytilus immune cells. This report constitutes the first complete biochemical characterization of mammalian proenkephalin in invertebrates, demonstrating its origin in simpler animals.

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