Discovery of multiple neuropeptide families in the phylum Platyhelminthes

Int J Parasitol. 2009 Sep;39(11):1243-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Apr 8.


Available evidence shows that short amidated neuropeptides are widespread and have important functions within the nervous systems of all flatworms (phylum Platyhelminthes) examined, and could therefore represent a starting point for new lead drug compounds with which to combat parasitic helminth infections. However, only a handful of these peptides have been characterised, the rigorous exploration of the flatworm peptide signalling repertoire having been hindered by the dearth of flatworm genomic data. Through searches of both expressed sequence tags and genomic resources using the basic local alignment search tool (BLAST), we describe 96 neuropeptides on 60 precursors from 10 flatworm species. Most of these (51 predicted peptides on 14 precursors) are novel and are apparently restricted to flatworms; the remainder comprise nine recognised peptide families including FMRFamide-like (FLPs), neuropeptide F (NPF)-like, myomodulin-like, buccalin-like and neuropeptide FF (NPFF)-like peptides; notably, the latter have only previously been reported in vertebrates. Selected peptides were localised immunocytochemically to the Schistosoma mansoni nervous system. We also describe several novel flatworm NPFs with structural features characteristic of the vertebrate neuropeptide Y (NPY) superfamily, previously unreported characteristics which support the common ancestry of flatworm NPFs with the NPY-superfamily. Our dataset provides a springboard for investigation of the functional biology and therapeutic potential of neuropeptides in flatworms, simultaneously launching flatworm neurobiology into the post-genomic era.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Computational Biology
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Female
  • Genome, Helminth
  • Helminth Proteins / classification
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics*
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neuropeptides / classification
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Platyhelminths / chemistry*
  • Platyhelminths / physiology
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Helminth Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide