Neuropeptides that possess the Arg-Phe-NH2 motif at their C-termini (i.e., RFamide peptides) have been characterized in the nervous system of both invertebrates and vertebrates. In vertebrates, RFamide peptides make a family and consist of the groups of gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH), neuropeptide FF (NPFF), prolactin-releasing peptide (PrRP), kisspeptin (kiss1 and kiss2), and pyroglutamylated RFamide peptide/26RFamide peptide (QRFP/26RFa). It now appears that these vertebrate RFamide peptides exert important neuroendocrine, behavioral, sensory, and autonomic functions. In 2000, GnIH was discovered as a novel hypothalamic RFamide peptide inhibiting gonadotropin release in quail. Subsequent studies have demonstrated that GnIH acts on the brain and pituitary to modulate reproductive physiology and behavior across vertebrates. To clarify the origin and evolution of GnIH, the existence of GnIH was investigated in agnathans, the most ancient lineage of vertebrates, and basal chordates, such as tunicates and cephalochordates (represented by amphioxus). This review first summarizes the structure and function of GnIH and other RFamide peptides, in particular NPFF having a similar C-terminal structure of GnIH, in vertebrates. Then, this review describes the evolutionary origin of GnIH based on the studies in agnathans and basal chordates.
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