Bombesin is a putative antibacterial peptide isolated from the skin of the frog, Bombina bombina. Two related (bombesin-like) peptides, gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and neuromedin B (NMB) have been found in mammals. The history of GRP/bombesin discovery has caused little attention to be paid to the evolutionary relationship of GRP/bombesin and their receptors in vertebrates. We have classified the peptides and their receptors from the phylogenetic viewpoint using a newly established genetic database and bioinformatics. Here we show, by using a clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis), that GRP is not a mammalian counterpart of bombesin and also that, whereas the GRP system is widely conserved among vertebrates, the NMB/bombesin system has diversified in certain lineages, in particular in frog species. To understand the derivation of GRP system in the ancestor of mammals, we have focused on the GRP system in Xenopus. Gene expression analyses combined with immunohistochemistry and Western blotting experiments demonstrated that GRP peptides and their receptors are distributed in the brain and stomach of Xenopus. We conclude that GRP peptides and their receptors have evolved from ancestral (GRP-like peptide) homologues to play multiple roles in both the gut and the brain as one of the 'gut-brain peptide' systems.
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