Many neuropeptides are members of peptide families, with multiple structurally similar isoforms frequently found even within a single species. This raises the question of whether the individual peptides serve common or distinct functions. In the accompanying paper, we found high isoform specificity in the responses of the lobster (Homarus americanus) cardiac neuromuscular system to members of the pyrokinin peptide family: only one of five crustacean isoforms showed any bioactivity in the cardiac system. Because previous studies in other species had found little isoform specificity in pyrokinin actions, we examined the effects of the same five crustacean pyrokinins on the lobster stomatogastric nervous system (STNS). In contrast to our findings in the cardiac system, the effects of the five pyrokinin isoforms on the STNS were indistinguishable: they all activated or enhanced the gastric mill motor pattern, but did not alter the pyloric pattern. These results, in combination with those from the cardiac ganglion, suggest that members of a peptide family in the same species can be both isoform specific and highly promiscuous in their modulatory capacity. The mechanisms that underlie these differences in specificity have not yet been elucidated; one possible explanation, which has yet to be tested, is the presence and differential distribution of multiple receptors for members of this peptide family.
Dickinson, Patsy S.; Kurland, Sienna C.; Qu, Xuan; Parker, Brett O.; Sreekrishnan, Anirudh; Kwiatkowski, Molly A.; Williams, Alex H.; Ysasi, Alexandra B.; and Christie, Andrew E., "Distinct or shared actions of peptide family isoforms: II. Multiple pyrokinins exert similar effects in the lobster stomatogastric nervous system" (2015). Biology Faculty Publications. 73.