During the course of a systematic screening of peptide signaling molecules in Hydra a novel peptide, Hym-355 (FPQSFLPRG-NH(2)), was identified. A cDNA encoding the peptide was isolated and characterized. Using both in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, Hym-355 was shown to be expressed in neurons and hence is a neuropeptide. The peptide was shown to specifically enhance neuron differentiation throughout the animal by inducing interstitial cells to enter the neuron pathway. Further, co-treatment with a PW peptide, which inhibits neuron differentiation, nullified the effects of both peptides, suggesting that they act in an antagonistic manner. This effect is discussed in terms of a feedback mechanism for maintaining the steady state neuron population in Hydra.

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