The Journal of biological chemistry

Molecular cloning of the helodermin and exendin-4 cDNAs in the lizard. Relationship to vasoactive intestinal polypeptide/pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide and glucagon-like peptide 1 and evidence against the existence of mammalian homologues.

PMID 9545315


Helodermin and exendin-4, two peptides isolated from the salivary gland of the Gila monster, Heloderma suspectum, are approximately 50% homologous to vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), respectively, and interact with the mammalian receptors for VIP and GLP-1 with equal or higher affinity and efficacy. Immunohistochemical studies suggested the presence of helodermin-like peptides in mammals. To determine whether helodermin and exendin-4 are present in mammals and their evolutionary relationship to VIP and GLP-1, their cDNAs were first cloned from Gila monster salivary gland. Northern blots and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction of multiple Gila monster tissues identified approximately 500-base pair transcripts only from salivary gland. Both helodermin and exendin-4 full-length cDNAs were approximately 500 base pairs long, and they encoded precursor proteins containing the entire amino acid sequence of helodermin and exendin-4, as well as a 44- or 45-amino acid N-terminal extension peptide, respectively, having approximately 60% homology. The size and structural organization of these cDNAs indicated that they were closely related to one another but markedly different from known cDNAs for the VIP/GLP-1 peptide family previously identified in both lower and higher evolved species. Cloning of the Gila monster VIP/peptide histidine isoleucine, pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide, and glucagon/GLP-1 cDNAs and Southern blotting of Gila monster DNA demonstrate the coexistence of separate genes for these peptides and suggests, along with the restricted salivary gland expression, that helodermin and exendin-4 coevolved to serve a separate specialized function. Probing of a variety of rat and human tissues on Northern blots, human and rat Southern blots, and genomic and cDNA libraries with either helodermin- or exendin-4-specific cDNAs failed to identify evidence for mammalian homologues. These data indicate that helodermin and exendin-4 are not the precursors to VIP and GLP-1 and that they belong to a separate peptide family encoded by separate genes. Furthermore, the existence of as yet undiscovered mammalian homologues to helodermin and exendin-4 seems unlikely.

Related Materials

Product #



Molecular Formula

Add to Cart

Glucagon-Like Peptide I Amide Fragment 7-36 human, ≥97% (HPLC), powder