In a genomic screen we isolated the Drosophila gene hugin (hug, cytology 87C1-2) by cross-hybridisation to a human glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor cDNA. Upon cDNA sequence analysis and in vitro expression assays, the hugin gene was found to encode a signal peptide containing proprotein that was further processed in Schneider-2 cells into peptides similar to known neuropeptides. Two of the peptides were similar to FXPRL-amides (pyrokinins) and to the ecdysis-triggering hormone, respectively. The former displayed myostimulatory activity in a bioassay on the cockroach hyperneural muscle preparation, as well as in the Drosophila heart muscle assay. Hugin is expressed during the later half of embryogenesis and during larval stages in a subgroup of neurosecretory cells of the suboesophageal ganglion. Ubiquitous ectopic hugin expression resulted in larval death predominantly at or shortly after ecdysis from second to third instar, suggesting that at least one of the posttranslational cleavage products affects molting of the larva by interfering with the regulation of ecdysis.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.