Apela (APJ early endogenous ligand, also known as elabela or toddler) is a recently discovered peptide hormone. Based on genetic studies in zebrafish, apela was found to be important for endoderm differentiation and heart development during embryogenesis. Although common phenotypes of apela and APJ-null zebrafish during embryonic development suggested that apela interacts with the APJ receptor, kinetics of apela binding to APJ and intracellular signaling pathways for apela remain unknown. The role of apela in adults is also uncertain. Using a chimeric apela ligand, we showed direct binding of apela to APJ with high affinity (Kd = 0.51 nm) and the ability of apelin, the known peptide ligand for APJ, to compete for apela binding. Apela, similar to apelin, acts through the inhibitory G protein pathway by inhibiting forskolin-stimulated cAMP production and by inducing ERK1/2 phosphorylation. In adult rats, apela is expressed exclusively in the kidney, unlike the wide tissue distribution of apelin. In vivo studies demonstrated the ability of apela to regulate fluid homeostasis by increasing diuresis and water intake. Dose-response studies further indicated that apela induces 2- and 5-fold higher maximal responses than apelin in ERK1/2 phosphorylation and diuresis/water intake, respectively. After designing an apela antagonist, we further demonstrated the role of endogenous ligand(s) in regulating APJ-mediated fluid homeostasis. Our results identified apela as a potent peptide hormone capable of regulating fluid homeostasis in adult kidney through coupling to the APJ-mediated Gi signaling pathway.
Keywords: APJ receptor; G protein; G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); Gi pathway; apela; apelin; fluid homeostasis; homeostasis; kidney; peptide hormone.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.