Elabela-apelin receptor signaling pathway is functional in mammalian systems

Sci Rep. 2015 Feb 2;5:8170. doi: 10.1038/srep08170.


Elabela (ELA) or Toddler is a recently discovered hormone which is required for normal development of heart and vasculature through activation of apelin receptor (APJ), a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), in zebrafish. The present study explores whether the ELA-APJ signaling pathway is functional in the mammalian system. Using reverse-transcription PCR, we found that ELA is restrictedly expressed in human pluripotent stem cells and adult kidney whereas APJ is more widely expressed. We next studied ELA-APJ signaling pathway in reconstituted mammalian cell systems. Addition of ELA to HEK293 cells over-expressing GFP-AJP fusion protein resulted in rapid internalization of the fusion receptor. In Chinese hamster ovarian (CHO) cells over-expressing human APJ, ELA suppresses cAMP production with EC50 of 11.1 nM, stimulates ERK1/2 phosphorylation with EC50 of 14.3 nM and weakly induces intracellular calcium mobilization. Finally, we tested ELA biological function in human umbilical vascular endothelial cells and showed that ELA induces angiogenesis and relaxes mouse aortic blood vessel in a dose-dependent manner through a mechanism different from apelin. Collectively, we demonstrate that the ELA-AJP signaling pathways are functional in mammalian systems, indicating that ELA likely serves as a hormone regulating the circulation system in adulthood as well as in embryonic development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apelin Receptors
  • Blood Vessels / physiology
  • CHO Cells
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Endocytosis
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Peptide Hormones / genetics
  • Peptide Hormones / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • APELA protein, human
  • APLNR protein, human
  • Apelin Receptors
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Calcium