New insights into ligand-receptor pairing and coevolution of relaxin family peptides and their receptors in teleosts

Int J Evol Biol. 2012;2012:310278. doi: 10.1155/2012/310278. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Relaxin-like peptides (RLN/INSL) play diverse roles in reproductive and neuroendocrine processes in placental mammals and are functionally associated with two distinct types of receptors (RXFP) for each respective function. The diversification of RLN/INSL and RXFP gene families in vertebrates was predominantly driven by whole genome duplications (2R and 3R). Teleosts preferentially retained duplicates of genes putatively involved in neuroendocrine regulation, harboring a total of 10-11 receptors and 6 ligand genes, while most mammals have equal numbers of ligands and receptors. To date, the ligand-receptor relationships of teleost Rln/Insl peptides and their receptors have largely remained unexplored. Here, we use selection analyses based on sequence data from 5 teleosts and qPCR expression data from zebrafish to explore possible ligand-receptor pairings in teleosts. We find support for the hypothesis that, with the exception of RLN, which has undergone strong positive selection in mammalian lineages, the ligand and receptor genes shared between mammals and teleosts appear to have similar pairings. On the other hand, the teleost-specific receptors show evidence of subfunctionalization. Overall, this study underscores the complexity of RLN/INSL and RXFP ligand-receptor interactions in teleosts and establishes theoretical background for further experimental work in nonmammals.