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Open Access Research article

Characterization of the pigmented shell-forming proteome of the common grove snail Cepaea nemoralis

Karlheinz Mann1 and Daniel John Jackson2*

Author Affiliations

1 Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Department of Proteomics and Signal Transduction, Am Klopferspitz 18, D-82152 Martinsried, Munich, Germany

2 Courant Research Centre Geobiology, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Goldschmidtstrasse 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:249  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-249

Published: 31 March 2014

Abstract

Background

With a diversity of pigmented shell morphotypes governed by Mendelian patterns of inheritance, the common grove snail, Cepaea nemoralis, has served as a model for evolutionary biologists and population geneticists for decades. Surprisingly, the molecular mechanisms by which C. nemoralis generates this pigmented shelled diversity, and the degree of evolutionary conservation present between molluscan shell-forming proteomes, remain unknown.

Results

Here, using next generation sequencing and high throughput proteomics, we identify and characterize the major proteinaceous components of the C. nemoralis shell, the first shell-proteome for a pulmonate mollusc. The recent availability of several marine molluscan shell-proteomes, and the dataset we report here, allow us to identify 59 evolutionarily conserved and novel shell-forming proteins. While the C. nemoralis dataset is dominated by proteins that share little to no similarity with proteins in public databases, almost half of it shares similarity with proteins present in other molluscan shells. In addition, we could not find any indication that a protein (or class of proteins) is directly associated with shell pigmentation in C. nemoralis. This is in contrast to the only other partially characterized molluscan-shell pigmentation mechanism employed by the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina.

Conclusions

The unique pulmonate shell-forming proteome that we report here reveals an abundance of both mollusc-specific and pulmonate-specific proteins, suggesting that novel coding sequences, and/or the extensive divergence of these sequences from ancestral sequences, supported the innovation of new shell types within the Conchifera. In addition, we report here the first evidence that molluscs use independently evolved mechanisms to pigment their shells. This proteome provides a solid foundation from which further studies aimed at the functional characterization of these shell-forming proteins can be conducted.

Keywords:
Biomineralization; Calcification; Mollusc; Pulmonate; Pigment; Shell; Protein; Evolution; Cepaea nemoralis