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Open Access Research article

Transcriptomic analysis of candidate osmoregulatory genes in the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica

Laura E Eierman* and Matthew P Hare

Author Affiliations

Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, 213 Bradfield Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:503  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-503

Published: 20 June 2014

Abstract

Background

The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is a euryhaline species that can thrive across a wide range of salinities (5-35). As with all estuarine species, individual oysters must be able to regulate their osmotic balance in response to constant temporal variation in salinity. At the population level, recurrent viability selection may be an additional mechanism shaping adaptive osmoregulatory phenotypes at the margins of oyster salinity tolerance. To identify candidate genes for osmoregulation, we sequenced, assembled, and annotated the transcriptome of wild juvenile eastern oysters from ‘high’ and ‘low’ salinity regimes. Annotations and candidates were mostly based on the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) genome sequence so osmoregulatory relevance in C. virginica was explored by testing functional enrichment of genes showing spatially discrete patterns of expression and by quantifying coding sequence divergence.

Results

The assembly of sequence reads and permissive clustering of potentially oversplit alleles resulted in 98,729 reftigs (contigs and singletons). Of these, 50,736 were annotated with 9,307 belonging to a set of candidate osmoregulatory genes identified from the C. gigas genome. A total of 218,777 SNPs (0.0185 SNPs/bp) were identified in annotated reftigs of C. virginica. Amino acid divergence between translations of C. virginica annotated reftigs and C. gigas coding sequence averaged 23.2 % with an average dN/dS ratio of 0.074, suggesting purifying selection on protein sequences. The high and low salinity source oysters each expressed a subset of genes unique to that group, and the functions for these annotated genes were consistent with known molecular mechanisms for osmotic regulation in molluscs.

Conclusions

Most of the osmoregulatory gene candidates experimentally identified in C. gigas are present in this C. virginica transcriptome. In general these congeners show coding sequence divergence too high to make the C. gigas genome a useful reference for C. virginica bioinformatics. However, strong purifying selection is characteristic of the osmoregulatory candidates so functional annotations are likely to correspond. An initial examination of C. virginica presence/absence expression patterns across the salinity gradient in a single estuary suggests that many of these candidates have expression patterns that co-vary with salinity, consistent with osmoregulatory function in C. virginica.

Keywords:
Crassostrea virginica; Osmoregulation; Transcriptome; dN/dS; Gene enrichment; SNP; Cd-hit