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Y Takei, M Ueki, and T Nishizawa


Ventricular natriuretic peptide (VNP), a newly discovered type of cardiac natriuretic peptide identified in eels, has a unique amino acid sequence and biological activity compared with other members of the natriuretic peptide family. We have cloned a cDNA encoding the eel VNP precursor from a cDNA library of eel ventricles and determined its sequence. Sequence analysis showed that the preproVNP consists of 150 amino acid residues containing a signal sequence of 22 amino acid residues at its N terminus and mature VNP(1–36) at its C terminus. Comparison with two types of mammalian cardiac natriuretic peptides (A and B type natriuretic peptides; ANP and BNP) revealed that VNP showed greater overall sequence identity to ANP than to BNP at both the cDNA and amino acid sequence levels. Since VNP cDNA lacks the repetitive ATTTA sequence in the 3′ non-coding region, which is a characteristic common to all BNP cDNAs sequenced to date, VNP may differ from BNP. While mRNA for eel ANP was detected only in the atrium, that for eel VNP was more abundant in the ventricle than in the atrium. Thus VNP is regarded as the first truly ventricular hormone in terms of synthesis and storage. Southern blot analysis indicated that VNP is also present in the quail, which belongs to a taxon where BNP has already been identified.

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YY Li, K Inoue, and Y Takei

Cytochrome P450 21-hydroxylase (P450c21) is a key enzyme for corticosteroidogenesis. To understand the regulatory mechanisms of cortisol production in fish, we have cloned a cDNA encoding P450c21, for the first time in non-mammalian vertebrates, from the head kidney of the eel (Anguilla japonica). The overall similarity of the deduced P450c21 sequence was modest (41-44% amino acid identity) between the eel and mammals. However, the functional domains for steroid-binding, heme-binding and proton-transfer sites were well conserved (74-100% identity). The eel P450c21 mRNA was expressed abundantly in the anterior quarter of the head kidney, but was undetectable in the remaining three-quarters or in other tissues including the gill, heart, liver, intestine, kidney, immature gonad and skeletal muscle. Functional expression of the cDNA clone in non-steroidogenic COS-1 cells produced a protein with high 21-hydroxylase activity to convert progesterone to 11-deoxycortisterone but not 17alpha-hydroxyprogesterone to 11-deoxycortisol, although the latter is a preferred substrate for mammalian P450c21. To examine whether 21-hydroxylated progesterone is actually 17alpha-hydroxylated in the eel interrenal, 11-deoxycorticosterone and (3)H-corticosterone were respectively incubated with the interrenal-containing anterior quarter of the head kidney. The separation of the steroids produced by two HPLC systems revealed that cortisol was produced from both substrates, showing the 17alpha-hydroxylation of 11-deoxycorticosterone and corticosterone in the eel interrenal. ACTH infused at 3 pmol/kg per min for 5 h consistently increased plasma cortisol levels and interrenal P450c21 mRNA levels in seawater eels. These results showed that the interrenal-specific eel P450c21 cloned in this study is involved in cortisol production through conversion of progesterone to 11-deoxycorticosterone in the interrenal-containing anterior quarter of eel head kidney. Furthermore, ACTH stimulates cortisol production in part through enhanced P450c21 expression in the eel interrenal.

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A Kawakoshi, S Hyodo, A Yasuda, and Y Takei

In teleost fish and tetrapods, the natriuretic peptide (NP) family consists of ANP (atrial natriuretic peptide), BNP (brain natriuretic peptide) and VNP (ventricular natriuretic peptide) that are secreted from the heart, and C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) that is found in the brain. However, CNP is the only NP identified in the heart and brain of elasmobranchs, suggesting that it is the ancestral type of the NP family and that ANP, BNP and VNP appeared later in the vertebrate phylogeny. To delineate more clearly the molecular evolution of this hormone family, we determined the sequence of NP molecule(s) in evolutionarily the oldest vertebrate group, the cyclostomes. We have cloned a novel NP cDNA from the heart and brain of hagfish, Eptatretus burgeri, using the RACE method and degenerate primers that amplify all known types of NP cDNAs. The novel NP, named EbuNP after the scientific name of this hagfish, appears to be the only NP in the heart and brain, as no other NP cDNAs were amplified even after specific removal of the cloned EbuNP mRNA from the mRNA pool, except for a minor alternatively spliced EbuNP cDNA with a truncated 3'-untranslated sequence. The EbuNP was equally similar to known NPs but was not considered to be a CNP because of the presence of a C-terminal tail sequence. The EbuNP gene was abundantly expressed in the cardiac atrium, ventricle, portal heart and brain but scarcely in the intestine; no expression was observed in the gill and kidney. Mass spectrometry of affinity-purified EbuNP in plasma, heart and brain revealed a 68 amino acid peptide circulating in the blood and stored in the heart, which is cleaved at the typical cleavage signal of a processing enzyme, furin, as observed in mammalian BNP. The C-terminal Gly residue was used for amidation as is the case in eel ANP. The immunoreactive EbuNP was not detected in the brain, suggesting the presence of a different processing form in the brain. These results show that the molecular evolution of the NP family in vertebrates is more complex than previously thought.

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A Kawakoshi, S Hyodo, K Inoue, Y Kobayashi, and Y Takei

The natriuretic peptide (NP) family is composed of three members: atrial, brain/ventricular and C-type NPs (ANP, BNP/VNP and CNP respectively) in tetrapods and teleostean fish, but only CNP in elasmobranch fish. In order to trace the process of divergence of the NP family in early vertebrate evolution, we attempted to detect NPs in the primitive ray-finned fish, the sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). Unexpectedly, we isolated four distinct NP cDNAs from the heart and brain of this chondrostean fish. The single NP from the brain was CNP, as judged from the lack of C-terminal 'tail' sequence extending from the intramolecular ring. Two of the three cardiac NPs were ANP and VNP, as judged by the presence of an amidation signal at its C-terminus (ANP) and a long and conserved C-terminal tail sequence (VNP) respectively. The third cardiac NP was most probably BNP because it possessed all the features characteristic of BNP including: (1) the presence of dibasic amino acids within the intramolecular ring; (2) the presence of AUUUA repeats in the 3'-untranslated region of its mRNA; (3) equivalent expression of its mRNA in the atrium and ventricle and appreciable expression in the brain. Based on the sturgeon BNP sequence, we further isolated BNP cDNA from the heart of tilapia and pufferfish for the first time in teleostean fish. Phylogenetic analysis of the precursors showed that newly identified NPs belong to each group of the four NPs. The current identification of both VNP and BNP in the sturgeon clearly showed that BNP and VNP are coded by distinct genes, and that the NP family consists of at least four members in the ray-finned fish. VNP has not been molecularly identified in mammals but its presence is suggested from physiological studies; heterologous fish VNP exhibited more potent vasorelaxant activity than homologous mammalian ANP in the isolated coronary artery of dogs.