Lilliputians get into the limelight: Novel class of small peptide genes in morphogenesis

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Abstract

Generally, bioactive small peptides are derived from precursors with signal sequences at their N-terminal ends, which undergo modification and proteolysis through a secretory pathway. By contrast, small peptides encoded in short open reading frames (sORF) lack signaling sequences and therefore are released into the cytoplasm, which may result in their having functions distinct from those of secreted peptides. Several small peptides encoded by sORF are involved in the morphogenesis of multicellular organisms. POLARIS, ROTUNDIFOLIA4, and Enod40 are plant peptides that are involved, respectively, in root formation, leaf shape control, and cortical cell division during nodule formation. Brick1/HSPC300 is an evolutionarily conserved component of the actin reorganization complex. polished rice/tarsal-less and mille-pattes encode related small peptides that are required for epithelial morphogenesis in Drosophila and segmentation in Tribolium. There are only a few known examples of small peptides encoded by sORF, and their molecular functions are still largely obscure. Nevertheless, an increasing number of sORF genes is being identified, and further research should reveal their roles in novel molecular mechanisms underlying developmental events.

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