The “ship” of the Arabian and North African deserts, the one-humped dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) has a remarkable capacity to survive in conditions of extreme heat without needing to drink water. One of the ways that this is achieved is through the actions of the antidiuretic hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP), which is made in a specialised part of the brain called the hypothalamo-neurohypophyseal system (HNS), but exerts its effects at the level of the kidney to provoke water conservation. Interestingly, our electron microscopy studies have shown that the ultrastructure of the dromedary HNS changes according to season, suggesting that in the arid conditions of summer the HNS is in an activated state, in preparation for the likely prospect of water deprivation. Based on our dromedary genome sequence, we have carried out an RNAseq analysis of the dromedary HNS in summer and winter. Amongst the 171 transcripts found to be significantly differentially regulated (>2 fold change, p value <0.05) there is a significant over-representation of neuropeptide encoding genes, including that encoding AVP, the expression of which appeared to increase in summer. Identification of neuropeptides in the HNS and analysis of neuropeptide profiles in extracts from individual camels using mass spectrometry indicates that overall AVP peptide levels decreased in the HNS during summer compared to winter, perhaps due to increased release during periods of dehydration in the dry season.
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