A full-length transcript encoding a functional type II GnRH receptor was cloned from the pituitary of the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. The current study is the first to identify a pituitary GnRH receptor transcript in an agnathan, which is the oldest vertebrate lineage. The cloned receptor retains the conserved structural features and amino acid motifs of other known GnRH receptors and notably includes a C-terminal intracellular tail of approximately 120 amino acids, the longest C-terminal tail of any vertebrate GnRH receptor identified to date. The lamprey GnRH receptor was shown to activate the inositol phosphate (IP) signaling system; stimulation with either lamprey GnRH-I or lamprey GnRH-III led to dose-dependent responses in transiently transfected COS7 cells. Furthermore, analyses of serially truncated lamprey GnRH receptor mutants indicate perturbations of the C-terminal tail disrupts IP accumulation, however, the tailless lamprey GnRH receptor was not only functional but was also capable of stimulating IP levels equal to wild type. Expression of the receptor transcript was demonstrated in the pituitary and testes using RT-PCR, whereas in situ hybridization showed expression and localization of the transcript in the proximal pars distalis of the pituitary. The phylogenetic placement and structural and functional features of this GnRH receptor suggest that it is representative of an ancestral GnRH receptor. In addition to having an important role in lamprey reproductive processes, the extensive C-terminal tail of this lamprey GnRH receptor may have great significance for understanding the evolutionary change of this vital structural feature within the GnRH receptor family.
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