Several neuropeptides with the C-terminal Arg-Phe-NH 2 (RFa) sequence have been identified in the hypothalamus of a variety of vertebrates. The present study was conducted to isolate novel RFa peptides from the zebra finch brain. Peptides were isolated by immunoaffinity purification using an antibody that recognises avian RFa peptides. The isolated peptide consisted of 25 amino acids with RFa at its C-terminus. The sequence was SGTLGNLAEEINGYNRRKGGFTFRFa. Alignment of the peptide with vertebrate 26RFa has revealed that the identified peptide is the zebra finch 26RFa. We also cloned the precursor cDNA encoding this peptide. Synteny analysis of the gene showed a high conservation of this gene among vertebrates. In addition, we cloned the cDNA encoding a putative 26RFa receptor, G protein-coupled receptor 103 (GPR103) in the zebra finch brain. GPR103 cDNA encoded a 432 amino acid protein that has seven transmembrane domains. In situ hybridisation analysis in the brain showed that the expression of 26RFa mRNA is confined to the anterior-medial hypothalamic area, ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus and the lateral hypothalamic area, the brain regions that are involved in the regulation of feeding behaviour, whereas GPR103 mRNA is distributed throughout the brain in addition to the hypothalamic nuclei. When administered centrally in free-feeding male zebra finches, 26RFa increased food intake 24h after injection without body mass change. Diencephalic GPR103 mRNA expression was up-regulated by fasting for 10h. Our data suggest that the hypothalamic 26RFa-its receptor system plays an important role in the central control of food intake and energy homeostasis in the zebra finch.
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