Open Access Research article

Moult cycle specific differential gene expression profiling of the crab Portunus pelagicus

Anna V Kuballa1, Timothy A Holton2, Brian Paterson3 and Abigail Elizur1*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Science, Health and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland 4556, Australia

2 Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

3 Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Bribie Island, Queensland 4507, Australia

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:147  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-147

Published: 12 March 2011



Crustacean moulting is a complex process involving many regulatory pathways. A holistic approach to examine differential gene expression profiles of transcripts relevant to the moulting process, across all moult cycle stages, was used in this study. Custom cDNA microarrays were constructed for Portunus pelagicus. The printed arrays contained 5000 transcripts derived from both the whole organism, and from individual organs such as the brain, eyestalk, mandibular organ and Y-organ from all moult cycle stages.


A total of 556 clones were sequenced from the cDNA libraries used to construct the arrays. These cDNAs represented 175 singletons and 62 contigs, resulting in 237 unique putative genes. The gene sequences were classified into the following biological functions: cuticular proteins associated with arthropod exoskeletons, farnesoic acid O-methyltransferase (FaMeT), proteins belonging to the hemocyanin gene family, lectins, proteins relevant to lipid metabolism, mitochondrial proteins, muscle related proteins, phenoloxidase activators and ribosomal proteins. Moult cycle-related differential expression patterns were observed for many transcripts. Of particular interest were those relating to the formation and hardening of the exoskeleton, and genes associated with cell respiration and energy metabolism.


The expression data presented here provide a chronological depiction of the molecular events associated with the biological changes that occur during the crustacean moult cycle. Tracing the temporal expression patterns of a large variety of transcripts involved in the moult cycle of P. pelagicus can provide a greater understanding of gene function, interaction, and regulation of both known and new genes with respect to the moulting process.