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Background: The animal phylum Cnidaria consists of six classes or subphyla: Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa, Cubozoa, Staurozoa, Anthozoa, and Endocnidozoa. Cnidarians have an early evolutionary origin, diverging before the emergence of the Bilateria. Extant members from this phylum, therefore, are important resources for understanding the evolution of the nervous system. Cnidarian nervous systems are strongly peptidergic. Using genomics, we have recently shown that three neuropeptide families (the X1PRX2amides, GRFamides, and GLWamides) are wide-spread in four (Scyphozoa, Cubozoa, Staurozoa, Anthozoa) out of six cnidarian classes or subphyla, suggesting that these three neuropeptide families emerged in the common cnidarian ancestor. In the current paper, we analyze the remaining cnidarian class, Hydrozoa, and the subphylum Endocnidozoa, to make firm conclusions about the evolution of neuropeptide genes in Cnidaria. Results: We analyzed sixteen hydrozoan species with a sequenced genome or transcriptome, using a recently developed software program for discovering neuropeptide genes. These species belonged to various hydrozoan subclasses and orders, among them the laboratory models Hydra, Hydractinia, and Clytia. We found that each species contained three to five neuropeptide families. A common feature for all hydrozoans was that they contained genes coding for (i) X1PRX2amide peptides, (ii) GRFamide peptides, and (iii) GLWamide peptides. These results support our previous conclusions that these three neuropeptide families evolved early in evolution. In addition to these three neuropeptide families, hydrozoans expressed up to two other neuropeptide gene families, which, however, were only occurring in certain animal groups. Endocnidozoa (Myxozoa) are microscopically small endoparasites, which are strongly reduced. For long, it was unknown to which phylum these parasites belonged, but recently they have been associated with cnidarians. We analyzed nine endocnidozoan species and found that two of them (Polypodium hydriforme and Buddenbrockia plumatellae) expressed neuropeptide genes. These genes coded for neuropeptides belonging to the GRFamide and GLWamide families with structures closely resembling them from hydrozoans. Conclusions: We found X1PRX2amide, GRFamide, and GLWamide peptides in all species belonging to the Hydrozoa, confirming that these peptides originated in the common cnidarian ancestor. In addition, we discovered GRFamide and GLWamide peptide genes in some members of the Endocnidozoa, thereby linking these parasites to Hydrozoa.
Koch, T. L., Hauser, F., & Grimmelikhuijzen, C. J. P. (2021). An evolutionary genomics view on neuropeptide genes in Hydrozoa and Endocnidozoa (Myxozoa). BMC Genomics, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-08091-2
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