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Open Access Research article

Proteomic analysis of Daphnia magna hints at molecular pathways involved in defensive plastic responses

Kathrin A Otte123, Thomas Fröhlich2, Georg J Arnold2 and Christian Laforsch3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department Biology II,, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Großhaderner Str. 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany

2 Laboratory for Functional Genome Analysis (LAFUGA), Gene Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Feodor-Lynen-Str. 25, 81377 München, Germany

3 Animal Ecology I, Bayreuth University, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:306  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-306

Published: 24 April 2014



Phenotypic plasticity in defensive traits occurs in many species when facing heterogeneous predator regimes. The waterflea Daphnia is well-known for showing a variety of these so called inducible defences. However, molecular mechanisms underlying this plasticity are poorly understood so far. We performed proteomic analysis on Daphnia magna exposed to chemical cues of the predator Triops cancriformis. D. magna develops an array of morphological changes in the presence of Triops including changes of carapace morphology and cuticle hardening.


Using the 2D-DIGE technique, 1500 protein spots could be matched and quantified. We discovered 179 protein spots with altered intensity when comparing Triops exposed animals to a control group, and 69 spots were identified using nano-LC MS/MS. Kairomone exposure increased the intensity of spots containing muscle proteins, cuticle proteins and chitin-modifying enzymes as well as enzymes of carbohydrate and energy metabolism. The yolk precursor protein vitellogenin decreased in abundance in 41 of 43 spots.


Identified proteins may be either directly involved in carapace stability or reflect changes in energy demand and allocation costs in animals exposed to predator kairomones. Our results present promising candidate proteins involved in the expression of inducible defences in Daphnia and enable further in depth analysis of this phenomenon.

Daphnia; Phenotypic plasticity; Inducible defence; Predator-prey interaction; 2D-DIGE; Proteomics