Two different leptin paralogues in zebrafish (Danio rerio) that originate early in teleostean evolution

Marnix Gorissen, Nicholas J. Bernier, Sander B. Nabuurs, Gert Flik, Mark O. Huising

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


We describe duplicate leptin genes in zebrafish (Danio rerio) that share merely 24% amino acid identity with each other and only 18% with human leptin. We were also able to retrieve a second leptin gene in medaka (Oryzias latipes). The presence of duplicate leptin genes in these two distantly related teleosts suggests that duplicate leptin genes are a common feature of teleostean fishes. Despite low primary sequence conservation, we are confident in assigning orthology between mammalian and zebrafish leptins for several reasons. First, both zebrafish leptins share their characteristic gene structure and display key features of conserved synteny with mammalian leptin genes. Secondly, the cysteine residues that make up leptin's single disulphide bridge are equally spaced in mammalian and zebrafish leptins and are unique among all members of the class-I helical cytokine family. Thirdly, the zebrafish leptins cluster with other fish leptins and mammalian leptins in phylogenetic analysis, supported by high bootstrap values. Within the leptin cluster, leptin-b forms a separate clade with the leptin-b orthologue from medaka. Finally, our prediction of the tertiary structures shows that both leptins conform to the typical four a-helix bundle structure of the class-I α-helical cytokines. The zebrafish leptins are differentially expressed; the liver shows high leptin-a expression (in concordance with what we observed for carp leptins), while leptin-b is expressed at much lower levels, which are downregulated further upon fasting. The finding of duplicate leptin genes in teleosts adds to our understanding of the evolution of leptin physiology in the early vertebrate lineage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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