Multi-species protein similarity clustering reveals novel expanded immune gene families in the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica

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Comparative genomics research in non-model species has highlighted how invertebrate hosts possess complex diversified repertoires of immune molecules. The levels of diversification in particular immune gene families appear to differ between invertebrate lineages and even between species within lineages, reflecting differences not only in evolutionary histories, but also in life histories, environmental niches, and pathogen exposures. The goal of this research was to identify immune-related gene families experiencing high levels of diversification in eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica. Families containing 1) transcripts differentially expressed in eastern oysters in response to bacterial challenge and 2) a larger number of transcripts compared to other species included those coding for the C1q and C-type lectin domain containing proteins (C1qDC and CTLDC), GTPase of the immune-associated proteins (GIMAP), scavenger receptors (SR), fibrinogen-C domain containing proteins (also known as FREPs), dopamine beta-hydrolase (DBH), interferon-inducible 44 (IFI44), serine protease inhibitors, apextrin, and dermatopontin. Phylogenetic analysis of two of the families significantly expanded in bivalves, IFI44 and GIMAP, showed a patchy distribution within both protostomes and deuterostomes, suggesting multiple independent losses and lineage-specific expansions. Increased availability of genomic information for a broader range of non-model species broadly distributed through vertebrate and invertebrate phyla will likely lead to improved knowledge on mechanisms of immune-gene diversification.

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Fish and Shellfish Immunology