Transcriptome analysis of the Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea glomerata: insights into molluscan immunity

Nicole G. Ertl, Wayne A. O'Connor, Alexie Papanicolaou, Aaron N. Wiegand, Abigail Elizur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Oysters have important ecological functions in their natural environment, acting as global carbon sinks and improving water quality by removing excess nutrients from the water column. During their life-time oysters are exposed to a variety of pathogens that can cause severe mortality in a range of oyster species. Environmental stressors encountered in their habitat can increase the susceptibility of oysters to these pathogens and in general have been shown to impact on oyster immunity, making immune parameters expressed in these marine animals an important research topic. Results: Paired-end Illumina high throughput sequencing of six S. glomerata tissues exposed to different environmental stressors resulted in a total of 484,121,702 paired-end reads. When reads and assembled transcripts were compared to the C. gigas genome, an overall low level of similarity at the nucleotide level, but a relatively high similarity at the protein level was observed. Examination of the tissue expression pattern showed that some transcripts coding for cathepsins, heat shock proteins and antioxidant proteins were exclusively expressed in the haemolymph of S. glomerata, suggesting a role in innate immunity. Furthermore, analysis of the S. glomerata ORFs showed a wide range of genes potentially involved in innate immunity, from pattern recognition receptors, components of the Toll-like signalling and apoptosis pathways to a complex antioxidant defence mechanism. Conclusions: This is the first large scale RNA-Seq study carried out in S. glomerata, showing the complex network of innate immune components that exist in this species. The results confirmed that many of the innate immune system components observed in mammals are also conserved in oysters; however, some, such as the TLR adaptors MAL, TRIF and TRAM are either missing or have been modified significantly. The components identified in this study could help explain the oysters' natural resilience against pathogenic microorganisms encountered in their natural environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0156649
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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