Discovery of a novel neurophysin-associated neuropeptide that triggers cardiac stomach contraction and retraction in starfish

Dean C. Semmens, Robyn E. Dane, Mahesh R. Pancholi, Susan E. Slade, James Scrivens, Maurice R. Elphick

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    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Feeding in starfish is a remarkable process in which the cardiac stomach is everted over prey and then retracted when prey tissue has been resorbed. Previous studies have revealed that SALMFamide-type neuropeptides trigger cardiac stomach relaxation and eversion in the starfish Asterias rubens. We hypothesized, therefore, that a counteracting neuropeptide system controls cardiac stomach contraction and retraction. Members of the NG peptide family cause muscle contraction in other echinoderms (e.g. NGFFFamide in sea urchins and NGIWYamide in sea cucumbers), so we investigated NG peptides as candidate regulators of cardiac stomach retraction in starfish. Generation and analysis of neural transcriptome sequence data from A. rubens revealed a precursor protein comprising two copies of a novel NG peptide, NGFFYamide, which was confirmed by mass spectrometry. A noteworthy feature of the NGFFYamide precursor is a C-terminal neurophysin domain, indicative of a common ancestry with vasopressin/oxytocin-type neuropeptide precursors. Interestingly, in precursors of other NG peptides the neurophysin domain has been retained (e.g. NGFFFamide) or lost (e.g. NGIWYamide and human neuropeptide S) and its functional significance remains to be determined. Investigation of the pharmacological actions of NGFFYamide in starfish revealed that it is a potent stimulator of cardiac stomach contraction in vitro and that it triggers cardiac stomach retraction in vivo. Thus, discovery of NGFFYamide provides a novel insight into neural regulation of cardiac stomach retraction as well as a rationale for chemically based strategies to control starfish that feed on economically important shellfish (e.g. mussels) or protected marine fauna (e.g. coral).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4047-4053
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number21
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


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