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The corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) system, which includes the CRH family of peptides, their receptors (CRHRs) and a binding protein (CRHBP), has been strongly conserved throughout vertebrate evolution. The identification of invertebrate homologues suggests this system evolved over 500 million years ago. However, the early vertebrate evolution of the CRH system is not understood. Current theory indicates that agnathans (hagfishes and lampreys) are monophyletic with a conservative evolution over the past 500million years and occupy a position at the root of vertebrate phylogeny. We isolated the cDNAs for three CRH family members, two CRHRs and a CRHBP from the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. Two of the CRH peptides are related to the CRH/urotensin-1 (UI) lineage, whereas the other is a urocortin (Ucn) 3 orthologue. The predicted amino acid identity of CRH and UI is 61% but they possess distinct motifs indicative of each peptide, suggesting an early divergence of the two genes. Based on our findings we propose the CRH peptides evolved in at least 3 distinct phases. The first occurring prior to the agnathans gave rise to the CRH/UI-like and Ucn2/3-like paralogous lineages. The second was a partial sub-genomic duplication of the ancestral CRH/UI-like gene, but not the Ucn2/3-like gene, giving rise to the CRH and UI (Ucn) lineages. The third event which resulted in the appearance of Ucn2 and Ucn3 must have occurred after the evolution of the cartilaginous fishes. Interestingly, unlike other vertebrate CRHRs, we were unable to classify our two P. marinus receptors (designated CRHRα and CRHRβ) as either type 1 or type 2, indicating that this split evolved later in vertebrate evolution. A single CRHBP gene was found suggesting that either this gene has not been affected by the vertebrate genome duplications or there have been a series of paralogous gene deletions. This study suggests that P. marinus possess a functional CRH system that differs from that of the gnathostomes and may represent a model for the earliest functioning CRH system in vertebrates. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Citation

Matthew J Endsin, Ola Michalec, Lori A Manzon, David A Lovejoy, Richard G Manzon. CRH peptide evolution occurred in three phases: Evidence from characterizing sea lamprey CRH system members. General and comparative endocrinology. 2017 Jan 01;240:162-173

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PMID: 27777046

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