The optic gland, which is analogous to the anterior pituitary in the context of gonadal maturation, is found on the upper posterior edge of the optic tract of the octopus Octopus vulgaris. In mature octopus, the optic glands enlarge and secrete a gonadotrophic hormone. A peptide with structural features similar to that of vertebrate gonadotophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) was isolated from the brain of octopus and was named oct-GnRH. Oct-GnRH showed luteinising hormone-releasing activity in the anterior pituitary cells of the Japanese quail Coturnix coturnix. Oct-GnRH immunoreactive signals were observed in the glandular cells of the mature optic gland. Oct-GnRH stimulated the synthesis and release of sex steroids from the ovary and testis, and elicited contractions of the oviduct. Oct-GnRH receptor was expressed in the gonads and accessory organs, such as the oviduct and oviducal gland. These results suggest that oct-GnRH induces the gonadal maturation and oviposition by regulating sex steroidogenesis and a series of egg-laying behaviours via the oct-GnRH receptor. The distribution and expression of oct-GnRH in the central and peripheral nervous systems suggest that oct-GnRH acts as a multifunctional modulatory factor in feeding, memory processing, sensory, movement and autonomic functions.
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