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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01262

Tachykinins: neuropeptides that are ancient, diverse, widespread and functionally pleiotropic

  • 1Department Zoology, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • 2Brown University, United States
  • 3Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences, Japan

Tachykinins (TKs) are ancient neuropeptides present throughout the bilaterians and are, with some exceptions, characterized by a conserved FXGXRamide carboxy terminus among protostomes and FXGLMamide in deuterostomes. The best-known TK is the vertebrate substance P, which in mammals, together with other TKs, has been implicated in health and disease with important roles in pain, inflammation, cancer, depressive disorder, immune system, gut function, hematopoiesis, sensory processing and hormone regulation. The invertebrate TKs are also known to have multiple functions in the central nervous system and intestine and these have been investigated in more detail in the fly Drosophila and some other arthropods. Here, we review the protostome and deuterostome organization and evolution of TK precursors, peptides and their receptors, as well as their functions, which appear to be partly conserved across Bilateria. We also outline the distribution of TKs in the brains of representative organisms. In Drosophila, recent studies have revealed roles of TKs in early olfactory processing, neuromodulation in circuits controlling locomotion and food search, nociception, aggression, metabolic stress, and hormone release. TK signaling also regulates lipid metabolism in the Drosophila intestine. In crustaceans, TK is an important neuromodulator in rhythm-generating motor circuits in the stomatogastric nervous system and a presynaptic modulator of photoreceptor cells. Several additional functional roles of invertebrate TKs can be inferred from their distribution in various brain circuits. In addition, there are a few interesting cases where invertebrate TKs are injected into prey animals as vasodilators from salivary glands or paralyzing agents from venom glands. In these cases, the peptides are produced in the glands of the predator with sequences mimicking the prey TKs. Lastly, the TK-signaling system appears to have duplicated in Panarthropoda (comprising arthropods, onychophores and tardigrades) to give rise to a novel type of peptides, natalisins, with a distinct receptor. The distribution and functions of natalisins are distinct from the TKs. In general, it appears that TKs are widely distributed and act in circuits at short range as neuromodulators or cotransmitters.

Keywords: Substance P, Neurokinin, Neurokinin receptor, natalisin, G protein-coupled receptor, co-transmission, Neuropeptide evolution, Tachykinin-related peptide

Received: 27 Sep 2019; Accepted: 06 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Nässel, Zandawala, Kawada and Satake. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Dick R. Nässel, Stockholm University, Department Zoology, Stockholm, S-10691, Sweden,