Peptides are known to play important developmental and physiological roles in signaling. The rich diversity of
peptides, with functions as diverse as intercellular communication, neurotransmission and signaling that spatially and
temporally controls axis formation and cell differentiation, hints at the wealth of information passed between interacting
cells. Little is known about peptides that control developmental processes such as cell differentiation and pattern formation
in metazoans. The cnidarian Hydra is one of the most basic metazoans and is a key model system for study of the
peptides involved in these processes. We developed a novel peptidomic approach for the isolation and identification of
functional peptide signaling molecules from Hydra (the Hydra Peptide Project). Over the course of this project, a wide variety
of novel neuropeptides were identified. Most of these peptides act directly on muscle cells and their functions include
induction of contraction and relaxation. Some peptides are involved in cell differentiation and morphogenesis.
Moreover, epitheliopeptides that are produced by epithelial cells were originally identified in Hydra. Some of these epitheliopeptides
exhibit morphogen-like activities, whereas others are involved in regulating neuron differentiation, possibly
through neuron-epithelial cell interactions. We also describe below our high-throughput reverse-phase nano-flow LCMALDI-
TOF-MS/MS approach, which has proved a powerful tool for the discovery of novel peptide signaling molecules
Keywords: Cnidaria, epitheliopeptides, Hydra, LC-MALDI-TOF-MS/MS morphogenesis, neuron differentiation, neuropeptides.
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