Smith, M., et al. A Crown-of-Thorns Seastar recombinant relaxin-like gonad-stimulating peptide triggers oocyte maturation and ovulation, 281, 41-48
The Acanthaster planci species-complex [Crown-of-Thorns Seastar (COTS)] are highly fecund echinoderms that exhibit population outbreaks on coral reef ecosystems worldwide, including the Australian Great Barrier Reef. A better understanding of the COTS molecular biology is critical towards efforts in controlling outbreaks and assisting reef recovery. In seastars, the heterodimeric relaxin-like gonad stimulating peptide (RGP) is responsible for triggering a neuroendocrine cascade that regulates resumption of oocyte meiosis prior to spawning. Our comparative RNA-seq analysis indicates a general increase in RGP gene expression in the female radial nerve cord during the reproductive season. Also, the sensory tentacles demonstrate a significantly higher expression level than radial nerve cord. A recombinant COTS RGP, generated in a yeast expression system, is highly effective in inducing oocyte germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD), followed by ovulation from ovarian fragments. The findings of this study provide a foundation for more in-depth molecular analysis of the reproductive neuroendocrine physiology of the COTS and the RGP.