Origins of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in vertebrates: Identification of a novel GnRH in a basal vertebrate, the sea lamprey


We cloned a cDNA encoding a novel (GnRH), named lamprey GnRH-II, from the sea lamprey, a basal vertebrate. The deduced amino acid sequence of the newly identified lamprey GnRH-II is QHWSHGWFPG. The architecture of the precursor is similar to that reported for other GnRH precursors consisting of a signal peptide, decapeptide, a downstream processing site, and a GnRH-associated peptide; however, the gene for lamprey GnRH-II does not have introns in comparison with the gene organization for all other vertebrate GnRHs. Lamprey GnRH-II precursor transcript was widely expressed in a variety of tissues. In situ hybridization of the brain showed expression and localization of the transcript in the hypothalamus, medulla, and olfactory regions, whereas immunohistochemistry using a specific antiserum showed only GnRH-II cell bodies and processes in the preoptic nucleus/hypothalamus areas. Lamprey GnRH-II was shown to stimulate the hypothalamic-pituitary axis using in vivo and in vitro studies. Lamprey GnRH-II was also shown to activate the inositol phosphate signaling system in COS-7 cells transiently transfected with the lamprey GnRH receptor. These studies provide evidence for a novel lamprey GnRH that has a role as a third hypothalamic GnRH. In summary, the newly discovered lamprey GnRH-II offers a new paradigm of the origin of the vertebrate GnRH family. We hypothesize that due to a genome/gene duplication event, an ancestral gene gave rise to two lineages of GnRHs: the gnathostome GnRH and lamprey GnRH-II.

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Endocrine Society

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