Neuropeptides function in animals to modulate most, if not all, complex behaviors. In invertebrates, neuropeptides can function as the primary neurotransmitter of a neuron, but more generally they co-localize with a small molecule neurotransmitter, as is commonly seen in vertebrates. Because a single neuron can express multiple neuropeptides and because neuropeptides can bind to multiple G protein-coupled receptors, neuropeptide actions increase the complexity by which the neural connectome can be activated or inhibited. Humans are estimated to have 90 plus neuropeptide genes; by contrast, nematodes, a relatively simple organism, have a slightly larger complement of neuropeptide genes. For instance, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has over 100 neuropeptide-encoding genes, of which at least 31 genes encode peptides of the FMRFamide family. To understand the function of this large FMRFamide peptide family, we isolated knockouts of different FMRFamide-encoding genes and generated transgenic animals in which the peptides are overexpressed. We assayed these animals on two basic behaviors: locomotion and reproduction. Modulating levels of different neuropeptides have strong as well as subtle effects on these behaviors. These data suggest that neuropeptides play critical roles in C. elegans to fine tune neural circuits controlling locomotion and reproduction.
Chang, Y., Burton, T., Ha, L., Huang, Z., Olajubelo, A. & Li, C. (2015). Modulation of Locomotion and Reproduction by FLP Neuropeptides in the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0135164. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135164.