Front Zool 2012 May 9;9(1). Epub 2012 May 9.
Centre for Marine Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, 4072, Australia.
Introduction: A huge diversity of marine species reproduce by synchronously spawning their gametes into the water column. Although this species-specific event typically occurs in a particular season, the precise time and day of spawning often can not be predicted. There is little understanding of how the environment (e.g. water temperature, day length, tidal and lunar cycle) regulates a population's reproductive physiology to synchronise a spawning event. The Indo-Pacific tropical abalone, Haliotis asinina, has a highly predictable spawning cycle, where individuals release gametes on the evenings of spring high tides on new and full moons during the warmer half of the year. These calculable spawning events uniquely allow for the analysis of the molecular and cellular processes underlying reproduction. Here we characterise neuropeptides produced in H. asinina ganglia that are known in egg-laying molluscs to control vital aspects of reproduction.
Results: We demonstrate that genes encoding APGWamide, myomodulin, the putative proctolin homologue whitnin, FMRFamide, a schistosomin-like peptide (SLP), a molluscan insulin-related peptide (MIP) and a haliotid growth-associated peptide (HGAP) all are differentially expressed in the anterior ganglia during the two week spawning cycle in both male and female abalone. Each gene has a unique and sex-specific expression profile. Despite these differences, expression levels in most of the genes peak at or within 12 h of the spawning event. In contrast, lowest levels of transcript abundance typically occurs 36 h before and 24 h after spawning, with differences in peak and low expression levels being most pronounced in genes orthologous to known molluscan reproduction neuromodulators.
Conclusions: Exploiting the predictable semi-lunar spawning cycle of the gastropod H. asinina, we have identified a suite of evolutionarily-conserved, mollusc-specific and rapidly-evolving neuropeptides that appear to contribute to the regulation of spawning. Dramatic increases and decreases in ganglionic neuropeptide expression levels from 36 h before to 24 h after the broadcast spawning event are consistent with these peptides having a regulatory role in translating environmental signals experienced by a population into a synchronous physiological output, in this case, the release of gametes.