A structural and functional comparison of nematode and crustacean PDH-like sequences

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Abstract

The elucidation of the whole genome of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans allowed for the identification of ortholog genes belonging to the pigment dispersing hormone/factor (PDH/PDF) peptide family. Members of this peptide family are known from crustaceans, insects and nematodes and seem to exist exclusively in ecdysozoans where they play a role in different processes, ranging from the dispersion of integumental and eye (retinal) pigments in decapod crustaceans to circadian rhythms in insects and locomotion in C. elegans. Two pdf genes (pdf-1 and pdf-2) encoding three different peptides: PDF-1a, PDF-1b and PDF-2 have been identified in C. elegans. These three C. elegans PDH-like peptides are similar but not identical in primary structure to PDHs from decapod crustaceans. We investigate whether this divergence has an influence on the pigment dispersing function of the peptides in a decapod crustacean, namely the shrimp Palaemon pacificus. We show that C. elegans PDF-1a and b peptides display cross-functional activity by dispersing pigments in the epithelium of P. pacificus at physiological doses. Moreover, by means of a comparative amino acid sequence analysis of nematode and crustacean PDH-like peptides, we can pinpoint several potentially important residues for eliciting pigment dispersing activity in decapod crustaceans. Although there is no sequence information on a receptor for PDH in decapod crustaceans, we postulate that there is general conservation of the PDH/PDF signaling system based on structural similarities of precursor proteins and receptors (including those from a branchiopod crustacean and from C. elegans).

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