GnRH receptors and peptides: skating backward

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2014 Dec 1:209:118-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2014.07.025. Epub 2014 Aug 5.


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and its receptor are essential for reproduction in vertebrates. Although there are three major types of GnRH peptides and two major types of receptors in vertebrates, the pattern of distribution is unusual. Evidence is presented from genome mining that type I GnRHRs are not restricted to mammals, but can be found in the lobe-finned and cartilaginous fishes. This implies that this tail-less GnRH receptor emerged early in vertebrate evolution, followed by several independent losses in different lineages. Also, we have identified representatives from the three major GnRH peptide types (mammalian GnRH1, vertebrate GnRH2 and dogfish GnRH3) in a single cartilaginous fish, the little skate. Skate and coelacanth are the only examples of animals with both type I and II GnRH receptors and all three peptide types, suggesting this was the ancestral condition in vertebrates. Our analysis of receptor synteny in combination with phylogeny suggests that there were three GnRH receptor types present before the two rounds of whole genome duplication in early vertebrates. To further understand the origin of the GnRH peptide-receptor system, the relationship of vertebrate and invertebrate homologs was examined. Our evidence supports the hypothesis of a GnRH superfamily with a common ancestor for the vertebrate GnRHs, invertebrate (inv)GnRHs, corazonins and adipokinetic hormones. The invertebrate deuterostomes (echinoderms, hemichordates and amphioxus) have derived GnRH-like peptides, although one amphioxus GnRH with a syntenic relationship to human GnRHs has been shown to be functional. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that gene duplications in the ancestral bilaterian produced two receptor types, one of which became adipokinetic hormone receptor/GnRHR and the other corazonin receptor/invGnRHR. It appears that the ancestral deuterostome had both a GnRHR and invGnRHR, and this is still the case in amphioxus. During the transition to vertebrates both the invertebrate-type peptide and receptor were lost, leaving only the vertebrate-type system that presently exists.

Keywords: Cartilaginous GnRH1 peptide; Cartilaginous type I GnRH receptor; GnRH synteny and phylogenetics; GnRHR superfamily; GnRHR synteny and phylogenetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / classification
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, LHRH / genetics*
  • Receptors, LHRH / metabolism
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Receptors, LHRH
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone