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    Neuropeptides with the C-terminal Wamide (Trp-NH2) are one of the last common ancestors of peptide families of eumetazoans and play various physiological roles. In this study, we sought to characterize the ancient Wamide peptides signaling systems in the marine mollusk Aplysia californica, i.e., APGWamide (APGWa) and myoinhibitory peptide (MIP)/Allatostatin B (AST-B) signaling systems. A common feature of protostome APGWa and MIP/AST-B peptides is the presence of a conserved Wamide motif in the C-terminus. Although orthologs of the APGWa and MIP signaling systems have been studied to various extents in annelids or other protostomes, no complete signaling systems have yet been characterized in mollusks. Here, through bioinformatics, molecular and cellular biology, we identified three receptors for APGWa, namely, APGWa-R1, APGWa-R2, and APGWa-R3. The EC50 values for APGWa-R1, APGWa-R2, and APGWa-R3 are 45, 2100, and 2600 nM, respectively. For the MIP signaling system, we predicted 13 forms of peptides, i.e., MIP1-13 that could be generated from the precursor identified in our study, with MIP5 (WKQMAVWa) having the largest number of copies (4 copies). Then, a complete MIP receptor (MIPR) was identified and the MIP1-13 peptides activated the MIPR in a dose-dependent manner, with EC50 values ranging from 40 to 3000 nM. Peptide analogs with alanine substitution experiments demonstrated that the Wamide motif at the C-terminus is necessary for receptor activity in both the APGWa and MIP systems. Moreover, cross-activity between the two signaling systems showed that MIP1, 4, 7, and 8 ligands could activate APGWa-R1 with a low potency (EC50 values: 2800-22,000 nM), which further supported that the APGWa and MIP signaling systems are somewhat related. In summary, our successful characterization of Aplysia APGWa and MIP signaling systems represents the first example in mollusks and provides an important basis for further functional studies in this and other protostome species. Moreover, this study may be useful for elucidating and clarifying the evolutionary relationship between the two Wamide signaling systems (i.e., APGWa and MIP systems) and their other extended neuropeptide signaling systems.


    Hui-Ying Wang, Ke Yu, Wei-Jia Liu, Hui-Min Jiang, Shi-Qi Guo, Ju-Ping Xu, Ya-Dong Li, Ping Chen, Xue-Ying Ding, Ping Fu, Yan-Chu-Fei Zhang, Yu-Shuo Mei, Guo Zhang, Hai-Bo Zhou, Jian Jing. Molecular Characterization of Two Wamide Neuropeptide Signaling Systems in Mollusk Aplysia. ACS chemical neuroscience. 2023 Jul 05;14(13):2425-2442

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    PMID: 37339428

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