Patterns on tropical marine mollusc shell mirror gene expression patterns

November 22, 2006
Patterns on tropical marine mollusc shell mirror gene expression patterns
Picture of a juvenile H. asinina shell. Credit: Daniel Jackson

Scientists have identified a group of genes that control the formation of shapes and colour patterns on the shell of the tropical marine mollusc referred to as ‘abalone’. A study published today in the open access journal BMC Biology reveals that the shape and colour patterns on the shell of the mollusc mirror the localised expression of specific genes in the mantle, a layer of skin situated just below the shell. The authors of the study identify one gene in particular that controls the formation of blue dots on the shell of the mollusc.

Daniel Jackson, Bernard Degnan and colleagues from the University of Queensland, Australia, collaborated with colleagues from the Department of Geobiology at the University of Göttingen, Germany to analyse gene expression in the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina. They sequenced 530 randomly-selected genes expressed in the mantle tissue of the young abalone.

Jackson et al. identified 331 genes that encode proteins expressed in the mantle. Using a bioinformatics approach they find that 26% (85) of these genes encode secreted proteins. Jackson et al. then analysed the expression patterns of 22 of the genes encoding secreted proteins. They find that each gene is expressed in a specific, discrete area of the mantle, involved in the formation of a specific layer, shape or colouration pattern of the shell.

They identify one gene in particular, Has-sometsuke, whose expression pattern maps precisely to pigmentation patterns in the shell. Blue dots on the shell of the abalone correspond to zones of high Has-sometsuke expression. By comparing the abalone DNA sequences with the genome of another related mollusc, Lottia scutum, the authors also show that genes encoding the secreted mantle proteins, which they call the ‘secretome’, in abalone, are likely to be rapidly evolving genes.

Jackson et al. conclude: “The unexpected complexity and evolvability of this secretome and the modular design of the molluscan mantle enables the diversification of shell strength and design, and as such must contribute to the variety of adaptive architectures and colours found in mollusc shells.”

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: 3-D bioPen: A hydrogel injection to regenerate cartilage

Related Stories

3-D bioPen: A hydrogel injection to regenerate cartilage

September 25, 2018

Highly specialized cartilage is characteristically avascular and non-neural in composition with low cell numbers in an aliphatic environment. Despite its apparent simplicity, bioengineering regenerative hyaline cartilage ...

Green tea compound helps siRNA slip inside cells

September 19, 2018

Drinking green tea has been linked to health benefits ranging from cardiovascular disease prevention to weight loss. Although many of these claims still need to be verified in the clinic, an antioxidant in green tea called ...

Recommended for you

Researchers investigate the peculiar radio source IC 1531

October 17, 2018

An international team of researchers has investigated a peculiar extragalactic radio source known as IC 1531. The new study analyzes the nature of IC 1531's high-energy emission, suggesting that the source is a radio galaxy. ...

Study shows city rats eat better than country rats

October 17, 2018

A pair of researchers, one with Trent University in Canada, the other the University of Manchester in the U.K. has found evidence that rats living in cities have a much richer diet than rats living in the country. In their ...

Cellular clean-up crews linked to how body handles sugar

October 17, 2018

How our bodies handle glucose—the simple sugar that provides energy from the food we eat—appears to be intertwined with how cells keep themselves functioning normally, according to new University of Chicago research.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.