About this Research Topic
Neuropeptide signaling is an ancient mechanism found in almost all animals that means in the Protostomia as well as in the Deuterostomia, which diverged about 700 million years ago. However, it is often unclear, whether there exist evolutionary relationships between the neuropeptide systems used by proto- and deuterostomes. Neuropeptides may act as neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, hormones or growth factors and are involved in controlling almost all life processes. Neuropeptides may regulate development and growth of animals, ecdysis and metamorphosis, feeding, metabolism and digestion, diuresis and homeostasis in general, but also their behavior. The chemical structure of neuropeptides is highly diverse and every peptide may be pleiotropic in function.
Recent advances in genome/transcriptome sequencing enabled the identification of neuropeptide precursor proteins as well as their cognate receptors in species from a growing variety of animal taxa, providing novel insights into the evolution of neuropeptides. The highest diversity in structure is found in the arthropods. Arthropods also contain vertebrate-specific neuropeptides such as oxytocin or vasopressin, but it is still unclear which function they may have there.
Control of neuropeptide function is mediated by factors controlling rates of prepropeptide gene transcription, translation, degradation and secretion. Recently, the RNA interference technique has been used for a specific knockdown of neuropeptide preprohormones especially in so-called non-model organisms, in order to evaluate their peptide functions. Insect neuropeptides have been discussed as promising targets for the development of control agents against arthropod pests as well as for the development of novel drugs against parasitic helminths.
This Research Topic will cover all aspects of neuropeptide evolution, from structural diversity through functional conditions to practical applications of neuropeptides. We welcome submissions in the form of reviews and/or original research.
Keywords: Neuropeptides, neuropeptide evolution, neuropeptide signalling, neuropeptide precursor proteins, control of neuropeptide function