Sharks and rays utilize a unique strategy for adaptation to the hyperosmotic marine environment by maintaining their plasma slightly hyperosmotic to surrounding seawater (SW) through the accumulation of urea. Since neurohypophysial hormones (NHs) are plausible candidates for osmoregulatory effectors, the synthesis and release of NHs were investigated after transfer of fish to different environmental salinities. Molecular cloning revealed three NHs from the hypothalamus of a dogfish, Triakis scyllium: vasotocin (VT), asvatocin, and a novel oxytocin-family peptide, phasitocin ([Phe3, Asn4, Ile8]vasotocin). The VT precursor consists of a signal peptide, VT, a neurophysin and a copeptin moiety. In contrast, the asvatocin and phasitocin precursors are shorter due to the lack of a copeptin moiety as is the case in oxytocin and mesotocin precursors in tetrapods and lungfish, but different from teleost isotocin precursors that have the copeptin moiety. In the hypothalamus, VT mRNA levels significantly increased after transfer to concentrated (130%) SW for 2 days, while no change was observed in mRNA levels of asvatocin and phasitocin following transfer to either 130% or diluted (60%) SW. The increase in VT mRNA was reflected in the plasma level of peptide; plasma VT concentration measured by highly sensitive and specific radioimmunoassay increased according to elevated environmental salinities. These results suggest that VT is an osmoregulatory effector in dogfish, especially when the dogfish is exposed to a hyperosmotic environment.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Inc.