Peptides (v.68, #C)

Introduction: Invertebrate Neuropeptides XV by Ronald J. Nachman (1-2).

Structural characterization of a novel peptide with antimicrobial activity from the venom gland of the scorpion Tityus stigmurus: Stigmurin by Edinara Targino de Melo; Andréia Bergamo Estrela; Elizabeth Cristina Gomes Santos; Paula Renata Lima Machado; Kleber Juvenal Silva Farias; Taffarel Melo Torres; Enéas Carvalho; João Paulo Matos Santos Lima; Arnóbio Antonio Silva-Júnior; Euzébio Guimarães Barbosa; Matheus de Freitas Fernandes-Pedrosa (3-10).
A new antimicrobial peptide, herein named Stigmurin, was selected based on a transcriptomic analysis of the Brazilian yellow scorpion Tityus stigmurus venom gland, an underexplored source for toxic peptides with possible biotechnological applications. Stigmurin was investigated in silico, by circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy, and in vitro. The CD spectra suggested that this peptide interacts with membranes, changing its conformation in the presence of an amphipathic environment, with predominance of random coil and beta-sheet structures. Stigmurin exhibited antibacterial and antifungal activity, with minimal inhibitory concentrations ranging from 8.7 to 69.5 μM. It was also showed that Stigmurin is toxic against SiHa and Vero E6 cell lines. The results suggest that Stigmurin can be considered a potential anti-infective drug.
Keywords: Scorpion venom; Tityus stigmurus; Antimicrobial peptide (AMP); Non-disulfide-bridged peptide (NDBP); Amphipathic peptide; Circular dichroism (CD);

Biochemical and physiological characterization of a new Na+-channel specific peptide from the venom of the Argentinean scorpion Tityus trivittatus by Fredy I.V. Coronas; Elia Diego-García; Rita Restano-Cassulini; Adolfo R. de Roodt; Lourival D. Possani (11-16).
A new peptide with 61 amino acids cross-linked by 4 disulfide bridges, with molecular weight of 6938.12 Da, and an amidated C-terminal amino acid residue was purified and characterized. The primary structure was obtained by direct Edman degradation and sequencing its gene. The peptide is lethal to mammals and was shown to be similar (95% identity) to toxin Ts1 (gamma toxin) from the Brazilian scorpion Tityus serrulatus; it was named Tt1g (from T. trivittatus toxin 1 gamma-like). Tt1g was assayed on several sub-types of Na+-channels showing displacement of the currents to more negative voltages, being the hNav1.3 the most affected channel. This toxin displays characteristics typical to the β-type sodium scorpion toxins. Lethality tests and physiological assays indicate that this peptide is probably the most important toxic component of this species of scorpion, known for causing human fatalities in the South American continent.
Keywords: β-Toxin; cDNA cloning; Na+-channel peptide; Primary structure; Scorpion; Tityus;

Silkworm pupa (Bombyx mori) protein was hydrolyzed using gastrointestinal endopeptidases (pepsin, trypsin and α-chymotrypsin). Then, the hydrolysate was purified sequentially by ultrafiltration, gel filtration chromatography and RP-HPLC. A novel ACE inhibitory peptide, Ala-Ser-Leu, with the IC50 value of 102.15 μM, was identified by IT-MS/MS. This is the first report of Ala-Ser-Leu from natural protein. Lineweaver–Burk plots suggest that the peptide is a competitive inhibitor against ACE. The molecular docking studies revealed that the ACE inhibition of Ala-Ser-Leu is mainly attributed to forming very strong hydrogen bonds with the S1 pocket (Ala354) and the S2 pocket (Gln281 and His353). The results indicate that silkworm pupa (B. mori) protein or its gastrointestinal protease hydrolysate could be used as a functional ingredient in auxiliary therapeutic foods against hypertension.
Keywords: Silkworm pupa (Bombyx mori); ACE inhibitory peptide; Gastrointestinal protease; Inhibition pattern; Molecular docking;

Diversity of A-conotoxins of three worm-hunting cone snails (Conus brunneus, Conus nux, and Conus princeps) from the Mexican Pacific coast by Daniel Morales-González; Ernesto Flores-Martínez; Roberto Zamora-Bustillos; Reginaldo Rivera-Reyes; Jesús Emilio Michel-Morfín; Víctor Landa-Jaime; Andrés Falcón; Manuel B. Aguilar (25-32).
Conus marine snails (∼500 species) are tropical predators that use venoms mainly to capture prey and defend themselves from predators. The principal components of these venoms are peptides that are known as “conotoxins” and generally comprise 7–40 amino acid residues, including 0–5 disulfide bridges and distinct posttranslational modifications. The most common molecular targets of conotoxins are voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels, G protein-coupled receptors, and neurotransmitter transporters, to which they bind, typically, with high affinity and specificity. Due to these properties, several conotoxins have become molecular probes, medicines, and leads for drug design. Conotoxins have been classified into genetic superfamilies based on the signal sequence of their precursors, and into pharmacological families according to their molecular targets. The objective of this work was to identify and analyze partial cDNAs encoding conotoxin precursors belonging to the A superfamily from Conus brunneus, Conus nux, and Conus princeps. These are vermivorous species of the Mexican Pacific coast from which only one A-conotoxin, and few O- and I2-conotoxins have been reported. Employing RT-PCR, we identified 30 distinct precursors that contain 13 different predicted mature toxins. With the exception of two groups of four highly similar peptides, these toxins are diverse at both the sequence and the physicochemical levels, and they belong to the 4/3, 4/4, 4/5, 4/6, and 4/7 structural subfamilies. These toxins are predicted to target diverse nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes: nx1d, muscle; pi1a–pi1d, α3β2, α7, and/or α9α10; br1a, muscle, α3β4, and/or α4β2; and nx1a–nx1c/pi1g and pi1h, α3β2, α3β4, α9β10, and/or α7.
Keywords: Conus brunneus; Conus nux; Conus princeps; A-conotoxin; cDNA cloning; Conotoxin precursor;

Drosophila suzukii is a highly polyphagous invasive pest which has been recently introduced into Europe and North America, where it is causing severe economic losses through larval infestations of stone and berry fruits. The peptidome of the selected nervous tissues of adult D. suzukii was investigated as a first step in identifying potential targets for the development of novel insecticides. Through in silico analyses of the D. suzukii genome databases 28 neuropeptide families, comprising more than 70 predicted peptides were identified. Using a combination of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry of tissue extracts, 33 predicted peptides, representing 15 different peptide families were identified by their molecular masses and a total of 17 peptide sequences were confirmed by ion fragmentation. A comparison between the peptides and precursors of D. suzukii and D. melanogaster shows they are highly conserved, with differences only identified in the amino acid sequences of the peptides encoded in the FMRFamide, hugin and ecydysis triggering hormone precursors. All other peptides predicted and identified from D. suzukii appear to be identical to those previously characterized from D. melanogaster. Adipokinetic hormone was only identified in the corpus cardiacum, other peptides present included short neuropeptide F, a pyrokinin and myosuppressin, the latter of which was the only peptide identified from the crop nerve bundle. Peptides present in extracts of the brain and/or thoracico-abdominal ganglion included allatostatins, cardioacceleratory peptide 2b, corazonin, extended FMRFamides, pyrokinins, myoinihibitory peptides, neuropeptide-like precursor 1, SIFamide, short neuropeptide F, kinin, sulfakinins and tachykinin related peptides.
Keywords: Spotted winged Drosophila; Invasive pest; Neuropeptide; MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry; Neurohormone;

The basal caeliferan family Tetrigidae is investigated to identify neuropeptides belonging to the adipokinetic hormone (AKH) family. The pygmy grasshopper Tetrix subulata contains in its corpus cardiacum two octapeptides as revealed by liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. The less abundant peptide is the well-known Schgr-AKH-II (pELNFSTGW amide) which is suggested to be the ancestral AKH of Caelifera and Ensifera. The second peptide, Tetsu-AKH (pEFNFTPGW amide), is novel and quite unusual with its third aromatic residue at position 2. It is thought to be autapomorphic for Caelifera. Tetsu-AKH has hyperlipemic activity in T. subulata and in Schistocerca gregaria.
Keywords: Insects; Pygmy grasshoppers; Tetrigidae; Adipokinetic peptide; Mass spectrometry; Energy mobilization;

Isoform-specific expression of the neuropeptide orcokinin in Drosophila melanogaster by Ji Chen; Min Sung Choi; Akira Mizoguchi; Jan A. Veenstra; KyeongJin Kang; Young-Joon Kim; Jae Young Kwon (50-57).
Orcokinins are neuropeptides that have been identified in diverse arthropods. In some species, an orcokinin gene encodes two isoforms of mature orcokinin peptide through alternative mRNA splicing. The existence of two orcokinin isoforms was predicted in Drosophila melanogaster as well, but the expression pattern of both isoforms has not been characterized. Here, we use in situ hybridization, antibody staining, and enhancer fusion GAL4 transgenic flies to examine the expression patterns of the A and B forms of orcokinin, and provide evidence that they are expressed differentially in the central nervous system (CNS) and the intestinal enteroendocrine system. The orcokinin A isoform is mainly expressed in the CNS of both larvae and adults. The A form is expressed in 5 pairs of neurons in abdominal neuromeres 1–5 of the larval CNS. In the adult brain, the A form is expressed in one pair of neurons in the posteriorlateral protocerebrum, and an additional four pairs of neurons located near the basement of the accessory medulla. Orcokinin A expression is also observed in two pairs of neurons in the ventral nerve cord (VNC). The orcokinin B form is mainly expressed in intestinal enteroendocrine cells in the larva and adult, with additional expression in one unpaired neuron in the adult abdominal ganglion. Together, our results provide elucidation of the existence and differential expression of the two orcokinin isoforms in the Drosophila brain and gut, setting the stage for future functional studies of orcokinins utilizing the genetically amenable fly model.
Keywords: Orcokinin; Neuropeptide; Drosophila melanogaster;

Molt-inhibiting hormone (MIH), a peptide member of the crustacean hyperglycemic hormone (CHH) family, is commonly considered as a negative regulator during the molt cycle in crustaceans. Phylogenetic analysis of CHH family peptides in penaeidae shrimps suggested that there is no significant differentiation between MIH and vitellogenesis-inhibiting hormone (VIH, another peptide member of CHH family), by far the most potent negative regulator of crustacean vitellogenesis known. Thus, MIH may also play a role in regulating vitellogenesis. In this study, two previously reported putative MIHs (LivMIH1 and LivMIH2) in the Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) were expressed in Escherichia coli, purified by immobilized metal ion affinity chromatography (IMAC) and further confirmed by western blot. Regulation of vitellogenin (VTG) mRNA expression by recombinant LivMIH1 and LivMIH2 challenge was performed by both in vitro hepatopancreatic primary cells culture and in vivo injection approaches. In in vitro primary culture of shrimp hepatopancreatic cells, only LivMIH2 but not LivMIH1 administration could improve the mRNA expression of VTG. In in vivo injection experiments, similarly, only LivMIH2 but not LivMIH1 could stimulate hepatopancreatic VTG gene expression and induce ovary maturation. Our study may provide evidence for one isoform of MIH (MIH2 in L. vannamei) may serve as one of the mediators of the physiological progress of molting and vitellogenesis. Our study may also give new insight in CHH family peptides regulating reproduction in crustaceans, in particular penaeidae shrimps.
Keywords: MIH; VIH; Litopenaeus vannamei; Vitellogenesis; Reproduction; Hepatopancreas;

Bombyx mori orphan G protein-coupled receptor, BNGR-A4, is the specific receptor of B. mori neuropeptide F (BmNPFR, neuropeptide F designated NPF). BmNPFR binds specifically and efficiently to B. mori neuropeptides BmNPF1a and BmNPF1b, which activates the ERK1/2 signaling pathway to regulate B. mori food intake and growth. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2 NPs) can promote B. mori growth. However, whether the mechanisms of TiO2 NPs’ effects are correlated with BmNPFR remains unknown. In this study, the effects of TiO2 NPs (5 mg/L) feeding and BmNPFR-dsRNA injection on B. mori food intake and growth were investigated; after TiO2 NPs treatments, B. mori food intake, body weight, and cocoon shell weight were 5.82%, 4.64%, and 9.30% higher, respectively, than those of controls. The food intake, body weight, and cocoon shell weight of the BmNPFR-dsRNA injection group were reduced by 8.05%, 6.28%, and 6.98%, respectively, compared to the control. After TiO2 NPs treatment for 72 h, the transcriptional levels of BmNPFR, BmNPF1a, and BmNPF1b in the midgut were 1.58, 1.43, and 1.34-folds, respectively, of those of the control, but 1.99, 2.26, and 2.19-folds, respectively, of the BmNPFR-dsRNA injection group; the phosphorylation level of MAPK was 24.03% higher than the control, while the phosphorylation level of BmNPFR-dsRNA injection group was 71.00% of control. The results indicated that TiO2 NPs affect B. mori feeding and growth through increasing the expression of BmNPFR. This study helps clarify the roles of BmNPF/BmNPFR system in TiO2 NPs’ effects on B. mori feeding, growth, and development.
Keywords: Bombyx mori; BmNPFR; Titanium dioxide nanoparticles; Growth; Development; Silking;

Molecular cloning of precursors for TEP-1 and TEP-2: The GGNG peptide-related peptides of a prosobranch gastropod, Thais clavigera by Fumihiro Morishita; Yasuo Furukawa; Yu Kodani; Hiroyuki Minakata; Toshihiro Horiguchi; Osamu Matsushima (72-82).
TEP (Thais excitatory peptide)-1 and TEP-2 are molluscan counterparts of annelidan GGNG-peptides, identified in a neogastropod, Thais clavigera (Morishita et al., 2006). We have cloned two cDNAs encoding TEP-1 and TEP-2 precursor protein, respectively, by the standard molecular cloning techniques. Predicted TEP-1 precursor protein consists of 161 amino acids, while predicted TEP-2 precursor protein has 118 amino acids. Only a single copy of TEP was found on the respective precursor. The semi-quantitative RT-PCR showed that expression of TEP-1 was high in sub-esophageal, pleural, pedal and visceral ganglia, while it was low in supra-esophageal ganglion. By contrast, expression level of TEP-2 was high in pedal and visceral ganglia. In situ hybridization visualized different subsets of TEP-1 and TEP-2 expressing neurons in Thais ganglia. For example, supra-esophageal ganglion contained many TEP-2 expressing neuron, but not TEP-1 expressing ones. These results suggest that expression of TEP-1 and TEP-2 is differently regulated in the Thais ganglia.
Keywords: In situ hybridization; RT-PCR; Neuropeptide; Precursor; cDNA-library; Mollusk;

Cloning, constitutive activity and expression profiling of two receptors related to relaxin receptors in Drosophila melanogaster by Matthias B. Van Hiel; Hans Peter Vandersmissen; Paul Proost; Jozef Vanden Broeck (83-90).
Leucine-rich repeat containing G protein-coupled receptors (LGRs) comprise a cluster of transmembrane proteins, characterized by the presence of a large N-terminal extracellular domain. This receptor group can be classified into three subtypes. Belonging to the subtype C LGRs are the mammalian relaxin receptors LGR7 (RXFP1) and LGR8 (RXFP2), which mediate important reproductive and other processes. We identified two related receptors in the genome of the fruit fly and cloned their open reading frames into an expression vector. Interestingly, dLGR3 demonstrated constitutive activity at very low doses of transfected plasmid, whereas dLGR4 did not show any basal activity. Both receptors exhibited a similar expression pattern during development, with relatively high transcript levels during the first larval stage. In addition, both receptors displayed higher expression in male adult flies as compared to female flies. Analysis of the tissue distribution of both receptor transcripts revealed a high expression of dLGR3 in the female fat body, while the expression of dLGR4 peaked in the midgut of both the wandering and adult stage.
Keywords: Fruit fly; G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); Hormone; Insulin; Leucine-rich repeat containing GPCR (LGR); Peptide Synthesis;

Down-regulation of plasma trehalose level in S. exigua during active feeding period.Like vertebrate insulins, some insect insulin-like peptides (ILPs) play crucial roles in controlling immature growth, adult lifespan, and hemolymph sugar level. An ILP gene (SeILP1) was predicted from a transcriptome database of Spodoptera exigua. SeILP1 encodes 95 amino acid sequence and shares sequence homologies (33–83%) with other insect ILPs, in which six conserved cysteine residues are found in the predicted B–A chains. SeILP1 was expressed in all developmental stages of S. exigua. However, SeILP1 expression was tissue-specific because the transcript was detected in fat body and epidermis, but not in hemocytes and gut. Its expression increased with feeding activity. Hemolymph trehalose levels of the fifth instar larvae maintained a relatively constant level at 2.31 ± 0.62 mM. However, starvation induced a significant increase of the hemolymph trehalose level by more than twofold in 48 h, at which few SeILP1 was transcribed. RNA interference of SeILP1 using its specific double-stranded RNA induced a significant increase of hemolymph trehalose level. Interestingly, a bovine insulin decreased hemolymph trehalose level in a dose-dependent manner. These results indicate that SeILP1 plays a role in suppressing hemolymph trehalose level in S. exigua.
Keywords: Insulin-like peptide; Trehalose; Spodoptera exigua; Feeding rhythm;

YY-39, a tick anti-thrombosis peptide containing RGD domain by Jing Tang; Yaqun Fang; Yajun Han; Xuewei Bai; Xiuwen Yan; Yun Zhang; Ren Lai; Zhiye Zhang (99-104).
Ticks are obligatory blood feeding ectoparasites, which continuously attach to their hosts for 1–2 weeks. There are many biologically active compounds in tick salivary glands interfering host haemostatic system and to successfully obtain blood meal. Several platelet aggregation inhibitors have been identified from ticks. A family of conserved peptides, which were identified from transcriptome analysis of many tick salivary glands, were found to contain unique primary structure including predicted mature peptides of 39–47 amino acid residues in length and a Pro/Glu(P/E)-Pro/His(P/H)-Lys-Gly-Asp(RGD) domain. Given their unique structure and RGD domain, they are considered a novel family of disintegrins that inhibit platelet aggregation. One of them (YY-39) was tested for its effects on platelets and thrombosis in vivo. YY-39 was found effectively to inhibit platelet aggregation induced by adenosine diphosphate (ADP), thrombin and thromboxane A2 (TXA2). Furthermore, YY-39 blocked platelet adhesion to soluble collagen and bound to purified GPIIb/IIIa in a dose-dependent manner. In in vivo experiments, YY-39 reduced thrombus weight effectively in a rat arteriovenous shunt model and inhibited thrombosis in a carrageenan-induced mouse tail thrombosis model. Combined with their prevalence in ticks and platelet inhibitory functions, this family of peptides might be conserved tick anti-haemostatic molecules.
Keywords: Tick; Salivary gland; Platelet inhibitor; Anti-thrombosis; Glycoprotein IIb/IIIa;

Different forms of apolipophorin III in Galleria mellonella larvae challenged with bacteria and fungi by Agnieszka Zdybicka-Barabas; Aneta Sowa-Jasiłek; Sylwia Stączek; Teresa Jakubowicz; Małgorzata Cytryńska (105-112).
Apolipophorin III (apoLp-III), a lipid-binding protein and an insect homolog of human apolipoprotein E, plays an important role in lipid transport and immune response in insects. In the present study, we have demonstrated a correlation in time between changes in the apoLp-III abundance occurring in the hemolymph, hemocytes, and fat body after immunization of Galleria mellonella larvae with Gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli, Gram-positive bacteria Micrococcus luteus, yeast Candida albicans, and a filamentous fungus Fusarium oxysporum. Using two-dimensional electrophoresis (IEF/SDS-PAGE) and immunoblotting with anti-apoLp-III antibodies, the profile of apoLp-III forms in G. mellonella larvae challenged with the bacteria and fungi has been analyzed. Besides the major apoLp-III protein (pI  = 6.5), one and three additional apoLp-III forms differing in the pI value have been detected, respectively, in the hemolymph, hemocytes, and fat body of non-immunized insects. Also, evidence has been provided that particular apoLp-III-derived polypeptides appear after the immune challenge and are present mainly in the hemolymph and hemocytes. The time of their appearance and persistence in the hemolymph was dependent on the pathogen used. At least two of the apoLp-III forms detected in hemolymph bound to the microbial cell surface. The increasing number of hemolymph apoLp-III polypeptides and differences in their profiles observed in time after the challenge with different immunogens confirmed the important role of apoLp-III in discriminating between pathogens by the insect defense system and in antibacterial as well as antifungal immune response.
Keywords: Galleria mellonella; Immune response; Apolipophorin III; Fat body; Hemocytes; IEF/SDS-PAGE;

Mastoparan induces apoptosis in B16F10-Nex2 melanoma cells via the intrinsic mitochondrial pathway and displays antitumor activity in vivo by Ricardo A. de Azevedo; Carlos R. Figueiredo; Adilson K. Ferreira; Alisson L. Matsuo; Mariana H. Massaoka; Natalia Girola; Aline V.V. Auada; Camyla F. Farias; Kerly F.M. Pasqualoto; Cecília P. Rodrigues; José A. Barbuto; Debora Levy; Sérgio P. Bydlowski; Paulo L. de Sá-Junior; Luiz R. Travassos; Ivo Lebrun (113-119).
Mastoparan is an α-helical and amphipathic tetradecapeptide obtained from the venom of the wasp Vespula lewisii. This peptide exhibits a wide variety of biological effects, including antimicrobial activity, increased histamine release from mast cells, induction of a potent mitochondrial permeability transition and tumor cell cytotoxicity. Here, the effects of mastoparan in malignant melanoma were studied using the murine model of B16F10-Nex2 cells. In vitro, mastoparan caused melanoma cell death by the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, as evidenced by the Annexin V-FITC/PI assay, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨ m), generation of reactive oxygen species, DNA degradation and cell death signaling. Most importantly, mastoparan reduced the growth of subcutaneous melanoma in syngeneic mice and increased their survival. The present results show that mastoparan induced caspase-dependent apoptosis in melanoma cells through the intrinsic mitochondrial pathway protecting the mice against tumor development.
Keywords: Mastoparan; Apoptosis; Intrinsic pathway; Melanoma; Antitumor effects in vivo;

The paradigm saying that release of the brain neuropeptide big prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH) initiates metamorphosis by activating the Torso-receptor/ERK pathway in larval prothoracic glands (PGs) is widely accepted nowadays. Upon ligand–receptor interaction Ca2+ enters the PG cells and acts as a secondary messenger. Ecdysteroidogenesis results, later followed by apoptosis. Yet, some data do not fit in this model. In some species decapitated animals can still molt, even repeatedly, and metamorphose. PTTH does not universally occur in all insect species. PGs may also have other functions; PGs as counterpart of the vertebrate thymus? There are also small PTTHs. Finally, PTTH remains abundantly present in adults and plays a role in control of ecdysteroidogenesis (=sex steroid production) in gonads. This is currently documented only in males. This urges a rethinking of the PTTH–PG paradigm. The key question is: Why does PTTH-induced Ca2+ entry only result in ecdysteroidogenesis and apoptosis in specific cells/tissues, namely the PGs and gonads? Indeed, numerous other neuropeptides also use Ca2+ as secondary messenger. The recent rediscovery that in both invertebrates and vertebrates at least some isoforms of Ca2+-ATPase need the presence of an endogenous farnesol/juvenile hormone(JH)-like sesquiterpenoid for keeping cytosolic [Ca2+] i below the limit of apoptosis-induction, triggered the idea that it is not primarily PTTH, but rather the drop to zero of the JH titer that acts as the primordial initiator of metamorphosis by increasing [Ca2+] i . PTTH likely potentiates this effect but only in cells expressing Torso. PTTH: an evolutionarily ancient gonadotropin?
Keywords: Insect hormones; Torso; Apoptosis; PTTH; Prothoracic glands; Thymus;

To exert their toxic effect, Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab toxin undergoes a sequential binding mechanism with different larval gut proteins including glycosyl-phosphatidyl-inositol anchored proteins like aminopeptidase-N (APN) or alkaline-phosphatase (ALP) and a transmembrane cadherin to form pre-pore structures that insert into the membrane. Cadherin binding induces oligomerization of the toxin by facilitating removal of the N-terminal region, while APN/ALP binding helps in oligomer membrane insertion. Cry1AbMod toxin was engineered to lack N-terminal region of the toxin and shown to counter resistance linked to cadherin mutations. In this manuscript we determined the toxicity of Cry1AbMod to Manduca sexta larvae silenced in the expression of cadherin, ALP or APN receptors. As previously reported Cry1Ab toxicity relied principally in ALP and cadherin in comparison to APN. Our data shows that Cry1AbMod counters resistance associated with low cadherin expression but was not effective against ALP silenced larvae. These results show that Cry1AbMod could be effective against resistance insects linked to mutations on binding molecules involved in toxin oligomerization but not against resistant insects linked to mutations on binding molecules involved in oligomer membrane insertion.
Keywords: Bacillus thuringiensis; Cry toxins; dsRNA; RNAi; Toxin–receptor interaction; Oligomerization;

Nitric oxide participates in the toxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab toxin to kill Manduca sexta larvae by Carolina Chavez; Benito Recio-Tótoro; Biviana Flores-Escobar; Humberto Lanz-Mendoza; Jorge Sanchez; Mario Soberón; Alejandra Bravo (134-139).
Nitric oxide (NO) produced by the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) enzyme is a reactive oxygen molecule widely considered as important participant in the immune system of different organisms to confront microbial infections. In insects the NO molecule has also been implicated in immune response against microbial pathogens. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is an insect-pathogenic bacterium that produces insecticidal proteins such as Cry toxins. These proteins kill insects because they form pores in the larval-midgut cells. Here we show that intoxication of Manduca sexta larvae with Cry1Ab activates expression of NOS with a corresponding increase in NO. This effect is not observed with a non-toxic mutant toxin Cry1Ab-E129K that is affected in pore formation. The increased production of NO triggered by intoxication with LC50 dose of Cry1Ab toxin is not associated with higher expression of antimicrobial peptides. NO participates in Cry1Ab toxicity since inhibition of NOS by selective l-NAME inhibitor prevented NO production and resulted in reduced mortality of the larvae. The fact that mortality was not completely abolished by L-NAME indicates that other processes participate in toxin action and induction of NO production upon Cry1Ab toxin administration accounts only for a part of the toxicity of this protein to M. sexta larvae.
Keywords: Nitric oxide; Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxin; Manduca sexta;

Aedes cadherin mediates the in vivo toxicity of the Cry11Aa toxin to Aedes aegypti by Su-Bum Lee; Jianwu Chen; Karlygash G. Aimanova; Sarjeet S. Gill (140-147).
Cadherin plays an important role in the toxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry proteins. We previously cloned a full-length cadherin from Aedes aegypti larvae and reported this protein binds Cry11Aa toxin from B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis with high affinity, ≈16.7 nM. Based on these results, we investigated if Aedes cadherin is involved in the in vivo toxicity of Cry11Aa toxin to Ae. aegypti. We established a mosquito cell line stably expressing the full-length Aedes cadherin and transgenic mosquitoes with silenced Aedes cadherin expression. Cells expressing the Aedes cadherin showed increased sensitivity to Cry11Aa toxin. Cry11Aa toxin at 400 nM killed approximately 37% of the cells in 3 h. Otherwise, transgenic mosquitoes with silenced Aedes cadherin expression showed increased tolerance to Cry11Aa toxin. Furthermore, cells expressing Aedes cadherin triggered Cry11Aa oligomerization. These results show the Aedes cadherin plays a pivotal role in Cry11Aa toxicity to Ae. aegypti larvae by mediating Cry11Aa oligomerization. However, since high toxicity was not obtained in cadherin-expressing cells, an additional receptor may be needed for manifestation of full toxicity. Moreover, cells expressing Aedes cadherin were sensitive to Cry4Aa and Cry11Ba, but not Cry4Ba. However transgenic mosquitoes with silenced Aedes cadherin expression showed no tolerance to Cry4Aa, Cry4Ba, and Cry11Ba toxins. These results suggest that while Aedes cadherin may mediate Cry4Aa and Cry11Ba toxicity, this cadherin but is not the main receptor of Cry4Aa, Cry4Ba and Cry11Ba toxin in Ae. aegypti.
Keywords: Bacillus thuringiensis; Cry11Aa toxin; Cadherin; Transgenic mosquito; Oligomerization; Cytotoxicity;

Peptide toxins often have pharmacological applications and are powerful tools for investigating the structure–function relationships of voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs). Although a group of potential VGSC inhibitors have been reported from tarantula venoms, little is known about the mechanism of their interaction with VGSCs. In this study, we showed that hainantoxin-IV (β-TRTX-Hn2a, HNTX-IV in brief), a 35-residue peptide from Ornithoctonus hainana venom, preferentially inhibited rNav1.2, rNav1.3 and hNav1.7 compared with rNav1.4 and hNav1.5. hNav1.7 was the most sensitive to HNTX-IV (IC50  ∼ 21 nM). In contrast to many other tarantula toxins that affect VGSCs, HNTX-IV at subsaturating concentrations did not alter activation and inactivation kinetics in the physiological range of voltages, while very large depolarization above +70 mV could partially activate toxin-bound hNav1.7 channel, indicating that HNTX-IV acts as a gating modifier rather than a pore blocker. Site-directed mutagenesis indicated that the toxin bound to site 4, which was located on the extracellular S3–S4 linker of hNav1.7 domain II. Mutants E753Q, D816N and E818Q of hNav1.7 decreased toxin affinity for hNav1.7 by 2.0-, 3.3- and 130-fold, respectively. In silico docking indicated that a three-toed claw substructure formed by residues with close contacts in the interface between HNTX-IV and hNav1.7 domain II stabilized the toxin–channel complex, impeding movement of the domain II voltage sensor and inhibiting hNav1.7 activation. Our data provide structural details for structure-based drug design and a useful template for the design of highly selective inhibitors of a specific subtype of VGSCs.
Keywords: VGSCs; Nav1.7; Tarantula toxin; Voltage sensor;

New metabolic activity of the nonsulfated sulfakinin Zopat-SK-1 in the insect fat body by Malgorzata Slocinska; Pawel Marciniak; Wieslawa Jarmuszkiewicz; Grzegorz Rosinski (157-163).
Insect sulfakinins are multifunctional neuropeptides homologous to vertebrate gastrin/cholecystokin (CCK) neuropeptide hormones. We investigated the action of the nonsulfated sulfakinin Zopat-SK-1 (pETSDDYGHLRFa) on the levels of chosen metabolites in the Zophobas atratus beetle fat body. Samples of fat body were collected 2 h and 24 h after hormone injection. The administration of 20 pmol of Zopat-SK-1 to feeding larvae significantly increased concentrations of lipids and proteins and decreased the content of glycogen in fat body tissue in the 24 h experimental group. In contrast, the only increase in total lipid concentration in prepupal fat bodies was observed 24 h after Zopat-SK-1 treatment. Simultaneously, changes in the quality and quantity of free sugars in the hemolymph were measured. In larval hemolymph, a marked increase in free sugar concentration and a decrease in glucose content were observed 24 h and 2 h after Zopat-SK-1 application, respectively. No changes in the prepupal stage were observed. For the first time we show potent metabolic activity of sulfakinin in the fat body tissue of an insect. Our findings imply a physiological function of the nonsulfated form of sulfakinin in energy storage and release processes in fat body tissue of larvae and prepupae was indicated. We suggest a role for sulfakinin signaling in the regulation of energy metabolism in insect tissues.
Keywords: Sulfakinin; Nonsulfated sulfakinin Zopat-SK-1; Lipid; Carbohydrate and protein fat body metabolism; Zophobas atratus; Beetles;

Mechanosensation circuitry in Caenorhabditis elegans: A focus on gentle touch by Jason C. Campbell; Ian D. Chin-Sang; William G. Bendena (164-174).
Forward or reverse movement in Caenorhabditis elegans is the result of sequential contraction of muscle cells arranged along the body. In larvae, muscle cells are innervated by distinct classes of motorneurons. B motorneurons regulate forward movement and A motorneurons regulate backward movement. Ablation of the D motor neurons results in animals that are uncoordinated in either direction, which suggests that D motorneurons regulate the interaction between the two circuits. C. elegans locomotion is dictated by inputs from interneurons that regulate the activity of motorneurons which coordinate muscle contraction to facilitate forward or backwards movement. As C. elegans moves through the environment, sensory neurons interpret chemical and mechanical information which is relayed to the motor neurons that control locomotory direction. A mechanosensory input known as light nose touch can be simulated in the laboratory by touching the nose of the animal with a human eyebrow hair. The recoil reaction that follows from light nose touch appears to be primarily mediated by glutamate release from the polymodal sensory neuron ASH. Numerous glutamate receptor types are found in different neurons and interneurons which suggest that several pathways may regulate the aversive response. Based on the phenotypes of mutants in which neuropeptide processing is abolished, neuropeptides play a role in circuit regulation. The light touch response is also regulated by transient receptor channel proteins and degenerin/epithelial sodium channels which modulate the activity of sensory neurons involved in the nose touch response.
Keywords: Mechanosensation; Glutamate; Neuropeptide; Reversal; Locomotion;

Molecular basis of the inhibition of the fast inactivation of voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.5 by tarantula toxin Jingzhaotoxin-II by Ying Huang; Xi Zhou; Cheng Tang; Yunxiao Zhang; Huai Tao; Ping Chen; Zhonghua Liu (175-182).
Jingzhaotoxin-II (JZTX-II) is a 32-residue peptide from the Chinese tarantula Chilobrachys jingzhao venom, and preferentially inhibits the fast inactivation of the voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) in rat cardiac myocytes. In the present study, we elucidated the action mechanism of JZTX-II inhibiting hNav1.5, a VGSC subtype mainly distributed in human cardiac myocytes. Among the four VGSC subtypes tested, hNav1.5 was the most sensitive to JZTX-II (EC50  = 125 ± 4 nM). Although JZTX-II had little or no effect on steady-state inactivation of the residual currents conducted by hNav1.5, it caused a 10 mV hyperpolarized shift of activation. Moreover, JZTX-II increased the recovery rate of hNav1.5 channels, which should lead to a shorter transition from the inactivation to closed state. JZTX-II dissociated from toxin–channel complex via extreme depolarization and subsequently rebound to the channel upon repolarization. Mutagenesis analyses showed that the domain IV (DIV) voltage-sensor domain (VSD) was critical for JZTX-II binding to hNav1.5 and some mutations located in S1–S2 and S3–S4 extracellular loops of hNav1.5 DIV additively reduced the toxin sensitivity of hNav1.5. Our data identified the mechanism underlying JZTX-II inhibiting hNav1.5, similar to scorpion α-toxins, involving binding to neurotoxin receptor site 3.
Keywords: Jingzhaotoxin-II; Nav1.5; Action mechanism;

Functional assembly of 260-kDa oligomers required for mosquito-larvicidal activity of the Bacillus thuringiensis Cry4Ba toxin by Narumol Khomkhum; Somphob Leetachewa; Chanan Angsuthanasombat; Saengduen Moonsom (183-189).
Oligomerization has been shown to contribute to the toxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxins. Mutations have been made in the Cry4Ba toxin and resulted in toxic to non-toxic mutants toward Aedes aegypti larvae. In this study, Cry4Ba wild type and mutants were analyzed for oligomer formation in vitro, biochemical properties and their relationships with larvicidal activity. In vitro, the Cry4Ba forms two-main types of the oligomers including (1) the 260-kDa and larger oligomers, which assembled in the carbonate buffer, pH 10.0 and completely dissociated by heating at 90 °C and (2) 190-kDa oligomer, which was induced by heat, sodium-salt and detergent addition. Polar and charge residues in the toxin domain I and II may contribute to formation of the 260-kDa oligomers. A single Cys-525 in domain III was replaced with serine resulting in the C525S mutant, which exhibited a 50% reduction in larvicidal activity compared to the Cry4Ba wild-type. The mutant exhibited partial loss in larger oligomer of the 260 kDa and total loss of 190-kDa oligomer. The results revealed an important role of the Cys-525 in intermolecular disulfide formation of larger oligomer as well as the 190-kDa oligomer. Despite of their formations in the receptor free condition, the 260-kDa and larger oligomers were found to strongly correspond to Cry4Ba toxicity suggesting their functional roles in the A. aegypti larvae. Also, possible roles of the 260-kDa and larger oligomers have been proposed in this report.
Keywords: Bacillus thuringiensis; Cry4Ba; Aedes aegypti; Oligomerization; Larvicidal activity;

Structure and antimicrobial activity relationship of royalisin, an antimicrobial peptide from royal jelly of Apis mellifera by Katarina Bílikova; Sheng-Chang Huang; I-Ping Lin; Jozef Šimuth; Chi-Chung Peng (190-196).
Royalisin is a 5.5-kDa antibacterial peptide isolated from the royal jelly of the honeybee (Apis mellifera). The antimicrobial activity of royalisin against fungi, Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria has been revealed. Compared with another insect antibacterial peptide, there is an extra stretch of 11 amino acid residues at the C-terminus of royalisin. In this study, a recombinant shortened form of royalisin named as royalisin-D, was constructed without the 11 amino acid residues at the C-terminal of royalisin and linked to the C-terminal of oleosin by an inteinS fragment. The recombinant protein was overexpressed in Escherichia coli, purified by artificial oil body system and subsequently released through self-splicing of inteinS induced by the changes of temperature. The antibacterial activity of royalisin-D was compared with royalisin via minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) assay, minimal bactericidal concentration (MBC) assay, microbial adhesion to solvents (MATS) methods, and cell membrane permeability. Furthermore, the recombinant royalisin and royalisin-D have also been treated with the reducing agent of disulfide bonds, dithiothreitol (DTT), to investigate the importance of the intra-disulfide bond in royalisin. In our results, royalisin-D exhibited similar antimicrobial activity to royalisin. Royalisin and royalisin D lost their antimicrobial activities when the intra-disulfide bonds were reduced by DDT. The intra-disulfide bond plays a more important role than the extra stretch of 11 amino acid residues at the C-terminus of royalisin in terms of the antimicrobial properties of the native royalisin.
Keywords: Royalisin; Shortened form Royalisin; Antimicrobial properties; Cell membrane permeability;

Molecular structure, chemical synthesis, and antibacterial activity of ABP-dHC-cecropin A from drury (Hyphantria cunea) by Jiaxin Zhang; Ali Movahedi; Xiaoli Wang; Xiaolong Wu; Tongming Yin; Qiang Zhuge (197-204).
The increasing resistance of bacteria and fungi to currently available antibiotics is a major concern worldwide, leading to enormous efforts to develop new antibiotics with new modes of actions. In this paper, cDNA encoding cecropin A was amplified from drury (Hyphantria cunea) (dHC) pupa fatbody total RNA using RT-PCR. The full-length dHC-cecropin A cDNA encoded a protein of 63 amino acids with a predicted 26-amino acid signal peptide and a 37-amino acid functional domain. We synthesized the antibacterial peptide (ABP) from the 37-amino acid functional domain (ABP-dHC-cecropin A), and amidated it via the C-terminus. Time-of-flight mass spectrometry showed its molecular weight to be 4058.94. The ABP-dHC-cecropin A was assessed in terms of its protein structure using bioinformatics and CD spectroscopy. The protein's secondary structure was predicted to be α-helical. In an antibacterial activity analysis, the ABP-dHC-cecropin A exhibited strong antibacterial activity against E. coli K12D31 and Agrobacterium EHA105.
Keywords: Hyphantria cunea; Antibacterial peptide; ABP-dHC-cecropin A; Molecular structure; Antibacterial activity;

We showed previously that the sphingid moth Hippotion eson synthesizes the highest number of adipokinetic hormones (AKHs) ever recorded, viz. five, in its corpus cardiacum: two octa-, two nona- and one decapeptide. Further, the endogenous decapeptide (Manse-AKH-II) and the other four AKHs are all active in lipid mobilization, whereas a non-lepidopteran decapeptide (Lacsp-AKH, five amino acid substitutions compared with Manse-AKH-II), was inactive in H. eson. We tested the decapeptide, Lacol-AKH, from a noctuid moth for the first time in a bioassay and it shows a maximal AKH effect in H. eson. Lacol-AKH differs from Manse-AKH-II in three places and from Lacsp-AKH in four places. We, thus, used Lacol-AKH as a lead peptide on which a series of AKH analogs are based to represent: (a) single amino acid replacements (according to the substitutions in Lacsp-AKH), (b) shorter chain lengths, (c) modified termini, and (d) a replacement of Trp in position 8. These analogs, as well as a few naturally occurring AKHs from other lepidopterans were tested in in vivo adipokinetic assays to gain insight into the ligand–receptor interaction in H. eson. Our results show that the second and third amino acids are important for biological activity in the sphingid moth. Analogs with an N-[acetylated]Glu1 (instead of a pyroGlu), or a free C-terminus, or Ala8 were not active in the bioassays, while shortened Lacol-AKH analogs and the undecapeptide, non-amidated Vanca-AKH showed very reduced activity (below 25%). This information is important for the consideration of peptide mimetics to combat specific lepidopteran pest insects.
Keywords: Adipokinetic hormone; Energy mobilization; Structure–activity assays; Sphingid moth; Hippotion eson;

The calcitonin-like diuretic hormone (CT/DH) in Rhodnius prolixus influences various tissues associated with feeding-related physiological events. The receptors for this peptide have also been identified and shown to be expressed in these tissues. In the present study, we have investigated the effects of two R. prolixus CT/DH analogs (full-length form and N-terminal truncated form) on hindgut contractions and in a heterologous receptor expression system. The analogs contained the amino acid methyl-homoserine in place of methionine in order to prevent them from being oxidized and thus increase their stability. The full-length form of the analog retained all of its activity in our assays when compared to the endogenous peptide. Truncated analog displayed no activity in our assays.
Keywords: Insect; Neuropeptide; Calcitonin; Analogs; G protein-coupled receptor; Hindgut contraction;

Probing the active conformation of FGLamide allatostatin analogs with N-terminal modifications using NMR spectroscopy and molecular modeling by Yong Xie; Li Zhang; Xiao Qing Wu; Chuan Liang Zhang; Xin Ling Yang; Stephen S. Tobe (214-218).
The FGLamide allatostatins (ASTs) can inhibit the production of juvenile hormone in vitro, and they therefore are regarded as possible insect growth regulator candidates for pest control. To understand the structural features of the ASTs that cause the differences in their activity the pentapeptide and four N-terminal modifications of AST analogs (H17, K9, K10 and K23) were selected to investigate their conformations. From NMR spectroscopy and molecular modeling, it is clear that K23 and K9 have a type IV β-turn and a γ turn in DMSO, respectively. The pentapeptide, H17 and K10 form a flexible conformation. Our study indicates that this flexible conformation could be an important and indispensable structural element for activity, whereas the turn structure may not be especially significant for biological activity.
Keywords: Allatostatin analogs; NMR spectroscopy; Molecular modeling;

Development of a CCK1R-membrane nanoparticle as a fish-out tool for bioactive peptides by Dorien Staljanssens; Carlos A. Rico; Minyoung Park; John Van Camp; Na Yu; Thomas Huber; Thomas P. Sakmar; Guy Smagghe (219-227).
The cholecystokinin receptor type 1 (CCK1R) is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that is involved in several biological processes including the regulation of the secretion of digestive enzymes. The peptide hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) binds to CCK1R, which is an important pharmacological target for several diseases, including obesity. Interestingly, nutritional dietary peptides also appear to activate CCK1R, and may play a role in CCK1R signaling in the gut. In this study, a novel technique to screen for CCK1R ligands based on affinity-selection is described. Functional expressed CCK1R is reconstituted into membrane nanoparticles called NABBs (nanoscale apo-lipoprotein bound bilayers). NABBs are native-like bilayer membrane systems for incorporation of GPCRs. CCK1R-NABBs were characterized using a fluorescently labeled CCK analog and can be used as a cutting-edge technology to screen for CCK1R ligands using affinity-selection mass spectrometry.
Keywords: Cholecystokinin receptor type 1; Cholecystokinin; NABBs; GPCR; Affinity-selection;

Synthesis of analogs of peptides from Buthus martensii scorpion venom with potential antibiotic activity by Roberto de la Salud Bea; Michael Ross Ascuitto; Laura Elena Luque de Johnson (228-232).
Five analogs of a natural peptide (BmKn1) found in the venom of scorpion Buthus martensii Karsh have been synthesized and tested to compare their antimicrobial and hemolytic activity with the wild type. Circular dichroism spectra show that these peptides form an alpha helix structure and its amino acid positions predict an amphipathic nature. Results show that increasing hydrophobicity by substituting successively positions 5 and 9 of the sequence (on the hydrophobic side of the helix) with alanine, valine and leucine enhances antimicrobial activity and hemolysis. When changes are done on positions 7 and 10 (on the hydrophilic side) by introducing more positive charges with addition of lysine, both activities also increase. However, when negative charges are introduced instead (with glutamic acids), antimicrobial activity is observed but hemolysis is reduced to zero under the concentrations studied. Although strong inhibitory activity begins at low concentrations (10 μg/mL), some peptides level off inhibition and no change is observed as concentrations are increased.
Keywords: Antimicrobial peptides; Alpha-helix; Amphipathic; Hemolysis;

Design, synthesis and aphicidal activity of N-terminal modified insect kinin analogs by Chuanliang Zhang; Yanyan Qu; Xiaoqing Wu; Dunlun Song; Yun Ling; Xinling Yang (233-238).
A series of N-terminal modified insect kinin analogs were designed and synthesized based on the lead compound [Aib]-Phe-Phe-[Aib]-Trp-Gly-NH2. All the analogs showed aphicidal activity against Aphis glycines. In particular, the pentapeptide analog X (LC50  = 0.045 mmol/L) has similar activity to the lead (LC50  = 0.048 mmol/L). This indicated that the N-terminal protective group may not play an important role in activity and the structure might be further simplified.The insect kinins are a class of multifunctional insect neuropeptides present in a diverse variety of insects. Insect kinin analogs showed multiple bioactivities, especially, the aphicidal activity. To find a biostable and bioactive insecticide candidate with simplified structure, a series of N-terminal modified insect kinin analogs was designed and synthesized based on the lead compound [Aib]-Phe-Phe-[Aib]-Trp-Gly-NH2. Their aphicidal activity against the soybean aphid Aphis glycines was evaluated. The results showed that all the analogs maintained the aphicidal activity. In particular, the aphicidal activity of the pentapeptide analog X Phe-Phe-[Aib]-Trp-Gly-NH2 (LC50  = 0.045 mmol/L) was similar to the lead compound (LC50  = 0.048 mmol/L). This indicated that the N-terminal protective group may not play an important role in the activity and the analogs structure could be simplified to pentapeptide analogs while retaining good aphicidal activity. The core pentapeptide analog X can be used as the lead compound for further chemical modifications to discover potential insecticides.
Keywords: Insect kinins; N-terminal modified; Peptidomimetics; Aphicidal activity; Insecticides;

Preparation and anti-osteoporotic activities in vivo of phosphorylated peptides from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) by Yanchao Wang; Shanshan Wang; Jingfeng Wang; Changhu Xue; Yaoguang Chang; Yong Xue (239-245).
Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) protein serves as a novel sustainable protein source for human. Krill protein isolate was phosphorylated by the dry-heating method with sodium pyrophosphate. Phosphorylated peptides from Antarctic krill (PP-AKP) were obtained from phosphorylated protein through tryptic hydrolysis. Two types of phosphate bonds were introduced by phosphorylation, i.e. P―O and P=O bonds. The anti-osteoporotic activities of PP-AKP at two doses (400 and 800 mg/kg body weight) were investigated with an osteoporotic rat model, which was established with bilateral ovariectomy surgery. Different doses of PP-AKP were given intraperitoneal injections to rats once a day with alendronate as a positive control. Phosphorylated peptides from Antarctic krill dose-dependently preserved bone mineral density in osteoporotic rats by increasing the degree of bone mineralization. Both trabecular and cortical bone strength in osteoporotic rats was significantly improved with PP-AKP treatment. The mechanism by which PP-AKP augmented bone mineral density and bone strength was relation to the reduction in osteoclast-mediated bone remodeling, as was supported by the decrease in bone resorption markers. Phosphorylated peptides from Antarctic krill could be developed as functional food or nutritional supplements.
Keywords: Antarctic krill; Phosphorylated peptides; Phosphorylation; Anti-osteoporotic activity; Bone;

The neuropeptidergic system in insects is an excellent target for pest control strategies. One promising biorational approach is the use of peptidomimetics modified from endogenous ligands to enhance biostability and bioavailability. In this study, we functionally characterized five different G protein-coupled receptors in a phylogenetic cluster, containing receptors for PRXamide in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, by evaluating a series of 70 different peptides and peptidomimetics. Three pyrokinin receptors (TcPKr-A, -B, and -C), cardioacceleratory peptide receptor (TcCAPAr) and ecdysis triggering hormone receptor (TcETHr) were included in the study. Strong agonistic or antagonistic peptidomimetics were identified, and included beta-proline (β3P) modification of the core amino acid residue proline and also a cyclo-peptide. It is common for a ligand to act on multiple receptors. In a number of cases, a ligand acting as an agonist on one receptor was an efficient antagonist on another receptor, suggesting complex outcomes of a peptidomimetic in a biological system. Interestingly, TcPK-A was highly promiscuous with a high number of agonists, while TcPK-C and TcCAPAr had a lower number of agonists, but a higher number of compounds acting as an antagonist. This observation suggests that a target GPCR with more promiscuity will provide better success for peptidomimetic approaches. This study is the first description of peptidomimetics on a CAPA receptor and resulted in the identification of peptidomimetic analogs that demonstrate antagonism of CAPA ligands. The PRXamide receptor assays with peptidomimetics provide useful insights into the biochemical properties of receptors.
Keywords: GPCR; Pyrokinin; CAPA; PBAN; ETH; pharmacology;