Identification of evolutionarily conserved residues required for the bioactivity of a pedal peptide/orcokinin-type neuropeptide

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Abstract

Graphical abstract

Starfish myorelaxant peptide (SMP) belongs to a bilaterian family of pedal peptide/orcokinin (PP/OK)-type neuropeptides that have evolutionarily conserved structural features. Here we report the first analysis of the structure-activity relationships of SMP and identify key residues for SMP bioactivity, including hydrophobic residues located in the N- and C-terminal regions that are conserved in PP/OK-type peptides in other phyla as well as core residues that are only conserved in echinoderm PP/OK-type peptides.

Pedal peptides and orcokinins are structurally related neuropeptides that were first discovered in protostomian invertebrates – mollusks and arthropods, respectively. Recently, pedal peptide/ocokinin (PP/OK)-type neuropeptides were discovered in a deuterostomian phylum, the echinoderms, indicating that the evolutionary origin of this neuropeptide family can be traced back to the common ancestor of bilaterian animals. Sequences comparison of PP/OK-type neuropeptides reveals several conserved residues, including N- and C-terminally located hydrophobic residues that are important for the bioactivity of orcokinin. Here we report the first comprehensive analysis of the structure-activity relationships of a PP/OK-type neuropeptide – starfish myorelaxant peptide (SMP; FGKGGAYDPLSAGFTD) from the starfish Patiria pectinifera (Phylum Echinodermata). Comparison of the bioactivity of SMP with N-terminally and/or C-terminally truncated and alanine-substituted SMP analogs revealed a core peptide (GAYDPLSAGF; SMP(5-14)) that retains the muscle-relaxing activity of SMP, albeit with reduced potency and efficacy. Within this core peptide, alanine-substitution of several residues resulted in complete or partial loss of bioactivity, whilst loss or substitution of the N-terminal phenylalanine residue of SMP also caused a substantial reduction in bioactivity. Furthermore, analysis of the bioactivity of other SMP-like peptides derived from the same precursor as SMP revealed that none of these were more potent/effective than SMP as muscle relaxants. In conclusion, we have identified key residues required for the bioactivity of a PP/OK-type neuropeptide (SMP), including hydrophobic residues located in the N- and C-terminal regions that are conserved in PP/OK-type peptides from other phyla as well as core residues that are conserved in echinoderm PP/OK-type peptides.

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