Molecular evolution of the neurohypophysial hormone precursors in mammals: Comparative genomics reveals novel mammalian oxytocin and vasopressin analogues

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2012 Nov 1;179(2):313-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2012.07.030. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Among vertebrates the neurohypophysial hormones show considerable variation. However, in eutherian mammals they have been considered rather conserved, with arginine vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OT) in all species except pig and some relatives, where lysine vasopressin replaces AVP. The availability of genomic data for a wide range of mammals makes it possible to assess whether these peptides and their precursors may be more variable in Eutheria than previously suspected. A survey of these data confirms that AVP and OT occur in most eutherians, but with exceptions. In a New-World monkey (marmoset, Callithrix jacchus) and in tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri), Pro(8)OT replaces OT, confirming a recent report for these species. In armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) Leu(3)OT replaces OT, while in tenrec (Echinops telfairi) Thr(4)AVP replaces AVP. In these two species there is also evidence for additional genes/pseudogenes, encoding much-modified forms of AVP, but in most other eutherian species there is no evidence for additional neurohypophysial hormone genes. Evolutionary analysis shows that sequences of eutherian neurohypophysial hormone precursors are generally strongly conserved, particularly those regions encoding active peptide and neurophysin. The close association between OT and VP genes has led to frequent gene conversion of sequences encoding neurophysins. A monotreme, platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) has genes for OT and AVP, organized tail-to-tail as in eutherians, but in marsupials 3-4 genes are present for neurohypophysial hormones, organized tail-to-head as in lower vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Armadillos / genetics
  • Callithrix / genetics
  • Eulipotyphla / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Conversion
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Marsupialia / genetics
  • Oxytocin / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pituitary Hormones, Posterior / genetics*
  • Protein Precursors / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Tupaiidae / genetics
  • Vasopressins / genetics*


  • Pituitary Hormones, Posterior
  • Protein Precursors
  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin