Gonad-stimulating substance (GSS) of starfish is the only known invertebrate peptide hormone responsible for final gamete maturation, rendering it functionally analogous to the vertebrate luteinizing hormone (LH). Here, we purified GSS of starfish, Asterina pectinifera, from radial nerves and determined its amino acid sequence. The purified GSS was a heterodimer composed of 2 different peptides, A and B chains, with disulfide cross-linkages. Based on its cysteine motif, starfish GSS was classified as a member of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF)/relaxin superfamily. The cDNA of GSS encodes a preprohormone sequence with a C peptide between the A and B chains. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that starfish GSS was a relaxin-like peptide. Chemically synthesized GSS induced not only oocyte maturation and ovulation in isolated ovarian fragments, but also unique spawning behavior, followed by release of gametes shortly after the injection. Importantly, the action of the synthetic GSS on oocyte maturation and ovulation was mediated through the production of cAMP by isolated ovarian follicle cells, thereby producing the maturation-inducing hormone of this species, 1-methyladenine. In situ hybridization showed the transcription of GSS to occur in the periphery of radial nerves at the side of tube feet. Together, the structure, sequence, and mode of signal transduction strongly suggest that GSS is closely related to the vertebrate relaxin.
M. Mita, Yoshikuni, M., Ohno, K., Shibata, Y., Dr. Bindhu Paul, Pitchayawasin, S., Isobe, M., and Nagahama, Y., “A relaxin-like peptide purified from radial nerves induces oocyte maturation and ovulation in the starfish, Asterina pectinifera”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 106, pp. 9507–9512, 2009.