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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Dec 22;95(26):15803-8.

Cloning of the cDNA encoding the urotensin II precursor in frog and human reveals intense expression of the urotensin II gene in motoneurons of the spinal cord.

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European Institute for Peptide Research (IFRMP 23), Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neuroendocrinology, Recherche Scientifique, University of Rouen, 76821 Mont-Saint-Aignan, France.


Urotensin II (UII) is a cyclic peptide initially isolated from the caudal neurosecretory system of teleost fish. Subsequently, UII has been characterized from a frog brain extract, indicating that a gene encoding a UII precursor is also present in the genome of a tetrapod. Here, we report the characterization of the cDNAs encoding frog and human UII precursors and the localization of the corresponding mRNAs. In both frog and human, the UII sequence is located at the C-terminal position of the precursor. Human UII is composed of only 11 amino acid residues, while fish and frog UII possess 12 and 13 amino acid residues, respectively. The cyclic region of UII, which is responsible for the biological activity of the peptide, has been fully conserved from fish to human. Northern blot and dot blot analysis revealed that UII precursor mRNAs are found predominantly in the frog and human spinal cord. In situ hybridization studies showed that the UII precursor gene is actively expressed in motoneurons. The present study demonstrates that UII, which has long been regarded as a peptide exclusively produced by the urophysis of teleost fish, is actually present in the brain of amphibians and mammals. The fact that evolutionary pressure has acted to conserve fully the biologically active sequence of UII suggests that the peptide may exert important physiological functions in humans.

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