The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren) kept Y not F: predicted sNPY endogenous ligands deorphanize the short NPF (sNPF) receptor.
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Neuropeptides and their receptors play vital roles in controlling the physiology and behavior of animals. Short neuropeptide F (sNPF) signaling regulates several physiological processes in insects such as feeding, locomotion, circadian rhythm and reproduction, among others. Previously, the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) sNPF receptor (S. invicta sNPFR), a G protein-coupled receptor, was immunolocalized in queen and worker brain and queen ovaries. Differential distribution patterns of S. invicta sNPFR protein in fire ant worker brain were associated both with worker subcastes and with presence or absence of brood in the colony. However, the cognate ligand for this sNPFR has not been characterized and attempts to deorphanize the receptor with sNPF peptides from other insect species which ended in the canonical sequence LRLRFamide, failed. Receptor deorphanization is an important step to understand the neuropeptide receptor downstream signaling cascade. We cloned the full length cDNA of the putative S. invicta sNPF prepropeptide and identified the putative "sNPF" ligand within its sequence. The peptide ends with an amidated Tyr residue whereas in other insect species sNPFs have an amidated Phe or Trp residue at the C-terminus. We stably expressed the HA-tagged S. invicta sNPFR in CHO-K1 cells. Two S. invicta sNPFs differing at their N-terminus were synthesized that equally activated the sNPFR, SLRSALAAGHLRYa (EC50=3.2 nM) and SALAAGHLRYa (EC50=8.6 nM). Both peptides decreased the intracellular cAMP concentration, indicating signaling through the Gi-subunit. The receptor was not activated by sNPF peptides from other insect species, honey bee long NPF (NPY) or mammalian PYY. Further, a synthesized peptide otherwise identical to the fire ant sequence but in which the C-terminal amidated amino acid residue 'Y' was switched to 'F', failed to activate the sNPFR. This discovery will now allow us to investigate the function of sNPY and its cognate receptor in fire ant biology.