Generating genomic resources for two crustacean species and their application to the study of White Spot Disease
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Over the last decades the crustacean aquaculture sector has been steadily growing, in order to meet global demands for its products. A major hurdle for further growth of the industry is the prevalence of viral disease epidemics that are facilitated by the intense culture conditions. A devastating virus impacting on the sector is the White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV), responsible for over US $ 10 billion in losses in shrimp production and trade. The Pathogenicity of WSSV is high, reaching 100 % mortality within 3-10 days in penaeid shrimps. In contrast, the European shore crab Carcinus maenas has been shown to be relatively resistant to WSSV. Uncovering the basis of this resistance could help inform on the development of strategies to mitigate the WSSV threat. C. maenas has been used widely in studies on ecotoxicology and host-pathogen interactions. However, like most aquatic crustaceans, the genomic resources available for this species are limited, impairing experimentation. Therefore, to facilitate interpretations of the exposure studies, we first produced a C. maenas transcriptome and genome scaffold assembly. We also produced a transcriptome for the European lobster (Homarus gammarus), an ecologically and commercially important crustacean species in United Kingdom waters, for use in comparing WSSV responses in this, a susceptible species, and C. maenas. For the C. maenas transcriptome assembly we isolated and pooled RNA from twelve different tissues and sequenced RNA on an Illumina HiSeq 2500 platform. After de novo assembly a transcriptome encompassing 212,427 transcripts was produced. Similar, the H. gammarus transcriptome was based on RNA from nine tissues and contained 106,498 transcripts. The transcripts were filtered and annotated using a variety of tools (including BLAST, MEGAN and RSEM) and databases (including GenBank, Gene Ontology and KEGG). The annotation rate for transcripts in both transcriptomes was around 20-25 % which appears to be common for aquatic crustacean species, as a result of the lack of well annotated gene sequences for this clade. Since it is likely that the host immune system would play an important role in WSSV infection we characterized the IMD, JAK/STAT, Toll-like receptor and other innate immune system pathways. We found a strong overlap between the immune system pathways in C. maenas and H. gammarus. In addition we investigated the sequence diversity of known WSSV interacting proteins amongst susceptible penaeid shrimp/lobster and the more resistant C. maenas. There were differences in viral receptor sequences, like Rab7, that correlate with a less efficient infection by WSSV. To produce the genome scaffold assembly for C. maenas we isolated DNA from muscle tissue and produced both paired-end and mate pair libraries for processing on the Illumina HiSeq 2500 platform. A de novo draft genome assembly consisting of 338,980 scaffolds and covering 362 Mb (36 % of estimated genome size) was produced, using SOAP-denovo2 coupled with the BESST scaffolding system. The generated assembly was highly fragmented due to the presence of repetitive areas in the C. maenas genome. Using a combination of ab initio predictors, RNA-sequencing data from the transcriptome datasets and curated C. maenas sequences we produced a model encompassing 10,355 genes. The gene model for C. maenas Dscam, a gene potentially involved in (pan)crustacean immune memory, was investigated in greater detail as manual curation can improve on the results of ab initio predictors. The scaffold containing C. maenas Dscam was fragmented, thus only contained the latter exons of the gene. The assembled draft genome and transcriptomes for C. maenas and H. gammarus are valuable molecular resources for studies involving these and other aquatic crustacean species. To uncover the basis of their resistance to WSSV, we infected C. maenas with WSSV and measured mRNA and miRNA expression for 7 time points spread over a period of 28 days, using RNA-Seq and miRNA-Seq. The resistance of C. maenas to WSSV infection was confirmed by the fact that no mortalities occurred. In these animals replicating WSSV was latent and detected only after 7 days, and this occurred in five of out 28 infected crabs only. Differential expression of transcripts and miRNAs were identified for each time point. In the first 12 hours post exposure we observed decreased expression of important regulators in endocytosis. Since it is established that WSSV enters the host cells through endocytosis and that interactions between the viral protein VP28 and Rab7 are important in successful infection, it is likely that changes in this process could impact WSSV infection success. Additionally we observed an increased expression of transcripts involved in RNA interference pathways across many time points, indicating a longer term response to initial viral exposure. miRNA sequencing showed several miRNAs that were differentially expressed. The most striking finding was a novel C. maenas miRNA that we found to be significantly downregulated in every WSSV infected individual, suggesting that it may play an important role in mediating the response of the host to the virus. In silico target prediction pointed to the involvement of this miRNA in endocytosis regulation. Taken together we hypothesize that C. maenas resistance to WSSV involves obstruction of viral entry by endocytosis, a process probably regulated through miRNAs, resulting in inefficient uptake of virions.
Verbruggen, B., Bickley, L. K., van Aerle, R., Bateman, K. S., Stentiford, G. D., Santos, E. M., & Tyler, C. R. (2016). Molecular Mechanisms of White Spot Syndrome Virus Infection and Perspectives on Treatments. Viruses, 8(1), 23.
Verbruggen, B., Bickley, L. K., Santos, E. M., Tyler, C. R., Stentiford, G. D., Bateman, K. S., & van Aerle, R. (2015). De novo assembly of the Carcinus maenas transcriptome and characterization of innate immune system pathways. BMC Genomics, 16(1), 458.
PhD in Biological Sciences
This work was funded by the Cefas Seedcorn Contract #DP318 (to GDS) and the University of Exeter’s Open Innovation Platform