The CRH family of neuropeptides, including CRH and urocortins, plays pivotal roles in the regulation of physiological and behavioral stress responses in vertebrates. In this study, we identified a previously undescribed member of the CRH family of peptides in a teleost fish species (medaka; Oryzias latipes) and named this peptide teleocortin (Tcn). Medaka Tcn is a 41-amino acid polypeptide derived from the C terminus of a larger precursor protein that is encoded by a 2-exon gene, thus sharing common structural features with known CRH family peptides. tcn was found exclusively in teleost fish. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that tcn probably has an ancient origin but was lost from the tetrapod lineage shortly after the divergence of the teleost and tetrapod lineages. In the medaka brain, tcn was expressed in nuclei of the telencephalon, preoptic area, hypothalamus, tegmentum,andisthmic region. Becausenoneof these nuclei have been implicated in the control of ACTH secretion from the pituitary, Tcn may exert its effects centrally in the brain rather than via stimulation of the pituitary-adrenal/interrenal axis. Most, if not all, tcn-expressing neurons also expressed crh, suggesting that Tcn and Crh share common physiological functions. Moreover, Tcn activated Crh receptors 1 and 2 with equivalent or slightly higher potency than Crh, further suggesting that these peptides share common functions. Taken together, these data identified Tcn as a novel, teleost-specific member of the CRH family of peptides that may act centrally with Crh to regulate physiological and behavioral stress responses.
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