454 pyrosequencing-based analysis of gene expression profiles in the amphipod Melita plumulosa: Transcriptome assembly and toxicant induced changes

Sharon E. Hook*, Natalie A. Twine, Stuart L. Simpson, David A. Spadaro, Philippe Moncuquet, Marc R. Wilkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Next generation sequencing using Roche's 454 pyrosequencing platform can be used to generate genomic information for non-model organisms, although there are bioinformatic challenges associated with these studies. These challenges are compounded by a lack of a standardized protocol to either assemble data or to evaluate the quality of a de novo transcriptome. This study presents an assembly of the control and toxicant responsive transcriptome of Melita plumulosa, an Australian amphipod commonly used in ecotoxicological studies. RNA was harvested from control amphipods, juvenile amphipods, and from amphipods exposed to either metal or diesel contaminated sediments. This RNA was used as the basis for a 454 based transcriptome sequencing effort. Sequencing generated 1.3 million reads from control, juvenile, metal-exposed and diesel-exposed amphipods. Different read filtering and assembly protocols were evaluated to generate an assembly that (i) had an optimal number of contigs; (ii) had long contigs; (iii) contained a suitable representation of conserved genes; and (iv) had long ortholog alignment lengths relative to the length of each contig. A final assembly, generated using fixed-length trimming based on the sequence quality scores, followed by assembly using the MIRA algorithm, produced the best results. The 26,625 contigs generated via this approach were annotated using Blast2GO, and the differential expression between treatments and control was determined by mapping with BWA followed by DESeq. Although the mapping generated low coverage, many differentially expressed contigs, including some with known developmental or toxicological function, were identified. This study demonstrated that 454 pyrosequencing is an effective means of generating reference transcriptome information for organisms, such as the amphipod M. plumulosa, that have no genomic information available in databases or in closely related sequenced species. It also demonstrated how optimization of read filtering protocols and assembly approaches changes the utility of results obtained from next generation sequencing studies, and establishes criteria to determine the quality of a de novo assembly in species lacking a reference genome. This new transcriptomic knowledge provides the genomic foundation for the creation of microarray and qPCR assays, serving as a reference transcriptome in future RNAseq studies, and allowing both the biology and ecotoxicology of this organism to be better understood. This approach will allow genomics-based methodology to be applied to a wider range of environmentally relevant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-88
Number of pages16
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphipod
  • De novo assembly
  • RNA Seq
  • Toxicogenomics
  • Transcriptome assembly


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