Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Identification of proteins involved in the functioning of Riftia pachyptila symbiosis by Subtractive Suppression Hybridization

Sophie Sanchez, Stéphane Hourdez and François H Lallier*

Author Affiliations

Equipe Ecophysiologie: Adaptation et Evolution Moléculaires, UMR 7144 CNRS UPMC, Station Biologique, Place Georges Teissier, BP 74, 29682 Roscoff Cedex, France

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2007, 8:337  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-337

Published: 24 September 2007



Since its discovery around deep sea hydrothermal vents of the Galapagos Rift about 30 years ago, the chemoautotrophic symbiosis between the vestimentiferan tubeworm Riftia pachyptila and its symbiotic sulfide-oxidizing γ-proteobacteria has been extensively studied. However, studies on the tubeworm host were essentially targeted, biochemical approaches. We decided to use a global molecular approach to identify new proteins involved in metabolite exchanges and assimilation by the host. We used a Subtractive Suppression Hybridization approach (SSH) in an unusual way, by comparing pairs of tissues from a single individual. We chose to identify the sequences preferentially expressed in the branchial plume tissue (the only organ in contact with the sea water) and in the trophosome (the organ housing the symbiotic bacteria) using the body wall as a reference tissue because it is supposedly not involved in metabolite exchanges in this species.


We produced four cDNA libraries: i) body wall-subtracted branchial plume library (BR-BW), ii) and its reverse library, branchial plume-subtracted body wall library (BW-BR), iii) body wall-subtracted trophosome library (TR-BW), iv) and its reverse library, trophosome-subtracted body wall library (BW-TR). For each library, we sequenced about 200 clones resulting in 45 different sequences on average in each library (58 and 59 cDNAs for BR-BW and TR-BW libraries respectively). Overall, half of the contigs matched records found in the databases with good E-values. After quantitative PCR analysis, it resulted that 16S, Major Vault Protein, carbonic anhydrase (RpCAbr), cathepsin and chitinase precursor transcripts were highly represented in the branchial plume tissue compared to the trophosome and the body wall tissues, whereas carbonic anhydrase (RpCAtr), myohemerythrin, a putative T-Cell receptor and one non identified transcript were highly specific of the trophosome tissue.


Quantitative PCR analyses were congruent with our libraries results thereby confirming the existence of tissue-specific transcripts identified by SSH. We focused our study on the transcripts we identified as the most interesting ones based on the BLAST results. Some of the keys to understanding metabolite exchanges may remain in the sequences we could not identify (hypothetical proteins and no similarity found). These sequences will have to be better studied by a longer -or complete- sequencing to check their identity, and then by verifying the expression level of the transcripts in different parts of the worm.