Identification of novel neuropeptides and their cognate G protein-coupled receptors is essential for a better understanding of neuroendocrine regulations. The RFamide peptides represent a family of regulatory peptides that all possess the Arg-Phe-NH2 motif at their C-terminus. In mammals, seven RFamide peptides encoded by five distinct genes have been characterized. The present review focuses on 26RFa (or QRFP) which is the latest member identified in this family. 26RFa is present in all vertebrate phyla and its C-terminal domain (KGGFXFRF-NH2), which is responsible for its biological activity, has been fully conserved during evolution. 26RFa is the cognate ligand of the orphan G protein-coupled receptor GPR103 that is also present from fish to human. In all vertebrate species studied so far, 26RFa-expressing neurons show a discrete localization in the hypothalamus, suggesting important neuroendocrine activities for this RFamide peptide. Indeed, 26RFa plays a crucial role in the control of feeding behavior in mammals, birds and fish. In addition, 26RFa up-regulates the gonadotropic axis in mammals and fish. Finally, evidence that the 26RFa/GPR103 system regulates steroidogenesis, bone formation, nociceptive transmission and arterial blood pressure has also been reported. Thus, 26RFa appears to act as a key neuropeptide in vertebrates controlling vital neuroendocrine functions. The pathophysiological implication of the 26RFa/GPR103 system in human is totally unknown and some fields of investigation are proposed.
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