RFamide (RFa) peptides play various important roles in the central nervous system in both invertebrates and vertebrates. However, there is no evidence of the existence of any RFamide peptide in the brain of hagfish, one of the oldest lineages of vertebrates. In this study,wesought to identify novel RFamide peptides from the brains of hagfish (Paramyxine atami). We identified four novel RFamide peptides, which had the C-terminal Pro-Gln-Arg-Phe-NH 2 structure. cDNA cloning revealed that the identified RFamide peptides are encoded in two types of cDNA. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of the two precursors indicated that the hagfish RFamide peptides belong to the PQRFamide peptide group that includes mammalian neuropeptide FF and AF. Based on immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, hagfish PQRFamide peptide precursor mRNA and its translated peptides were localized in the infundibular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Immunoreactive fibers were terminated on blood vessels in the infundibular nucleus. Dense immunoreactive fibers were also observed in other brain regions. We further showed that one of the hagfish PQRFamide peptides significantly stimulated the expression of gonadotropin-β mRNA in the cultured hagfish pituitary. These results indicate that the control mechanism of gonadotropin expression by a hypothalamic neuropeptide evolved in the agnathan brain. This is the first evidence describing the identification of RFamide peptides in the hagfish brain. This is also the first report showing the regulation of gonadotropin expression by a homolog of neuropeptide FF that belongs to the PQRFamide peptide group in any vertebrate.
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