Peptides that play critical physiological roles are often encoded in precursors that contain several gene products. Differential processing of a polypeptide precursor by cell-specific proteolytic enzymes can yield multiple messengers with diverse distributions and functions. We have isolated SDNFMRFamide, DPKQDFMRFamide, and TPAEDFMRFamide from Drosophila melanogaster . The peptides are encoded in the FMRFamide gene and have a common C-terminal FMRFamide but different N-terminal extensions. In order to investigate the regulation of expression of FMRFamide peptides, we generated antisera to distinguish between the structurally related neuropeptides. We established a triple-label immunofluorescence protocol using antisera raised in the same host species and mapped the neural distribution of SDNFMRFamide, DPKQDFMRFamide, and TPAEDFMRFamide. Each peptide has a unique, nonoverlapping cellular expression pattern, suggesting that the precursor is differentially processed. Thus, our data indicate that D. melanogaster contains cell-specific proteolytic enzymes to cleave a polypeptide protein precursor, resulting in unique expression patterns of neuropeptides
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