FMRFamide (Phe-Met-Arg-Phe-NH2) and related peptides (FaRPs) have been found throughout the animal kingdom, where they are involved in many behaviors. We previously identified 22 genes comprising the flp gene family that encodes FaRPs in Caenorhabditis elegans; in this paper we report the identification of another flp gene, flp-23. As a first step toward determining their functional roles in C. elegans, we examined the cell-specific expression pattern of the flp gene family. Of the 19 flp genes examined, each gene is expressed in a distinct set of cells; these cells include interneurons, motor neurons, and sensory neurons that are involved in multiple behaviors, as well as supporting cells, muscle cells, and epidermal cells. Several flp genes show sex-specific expression patterns. Furthermore, we find that expression of two flp genes changes in response to the developmental state of the animal. Many neurons express multiple flp genes. To investigate how flp genes are regulated in different neuronal subtypes, we examined flp expression in a small, well-defined subset of neurons, the mechanosensory neurons. Mutations in the unc-86 and mec-3 genes, which are necessary for the production and differentiation of the mechanosensory neurons, result in the complete loss of flp-4, flp-8, and flp-20 expression in mechanosensory neurons. Collectively, these data indicate that members of the flp gene family are likely to influence multiple behaviors and that their regulation can be dependent on the developmental state of the organism.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.