Parmentier, C., Hameury, E., Dubessy, C., Quan, F.B., Habert, D., Calas, A., Vaudry, H., Lihrmann, I., and Tostivint, H. (2011) Occurrence of Two Distinct Urotensin II-Related Peptides in Zebrafish Provides New Insight into the Evolutionary History of the Urotensin II Gene Family. Endocrinology. 152(6):2330-2341.
The urotensin II (UII) family is currently known to consist of two paralogous peptides, namely UII and UII-related peptide (URP). In contrast to UII, which has been identified in all vertebrate classes so far, URP has only been characterized in tetrapods. We report here the occurrence of two distinct URP genes in teleosts, which we have named URP1 and URP2. Synteny analysis revealed that teleost URP1 and URP2 genes and tetrapod URP genes represent three distinct paralog genes that, together with the UII gene, probably arose from the two rounds of tetraploidization, which took place early in vertebrate evolution. The absence of URP in fish indicates that the corresponding gene has been lost in the teleost lineage, whereas it is likely that both the URP1 and URP2 genes have been lost in the tetrapod lineage. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis revealed that the URP2 gene is mainly expressed in the spinal cord and the brain in adult zebrafish. In situ hybridization experiments showed that in zebrafish embryos, URP2 mRNA-containing cells are located in the floor plate of the neural tube. In adult, URP2-expressing cells occur in close contact with the ventral side of the ependymal canal along the whole spinal cord, whereas in the brain, they are located below the fourth ventricle. These URP-expressing cells may correspond to cerebrospinal fluid-contacting neurons. In conclusion, our study reveals the occurrence of four distinct UII paralogous systems in vertebrates that may exert distinct functions, both in tetrapods and teleosts.