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De novo characterization of the gene-rich transcriptomes of two color-polymorphic spiders, Theridion grallator and T. californicum (Araneae: Theridiidae), with special reference to pigment genes

  • Author(s): Croucher, Peter J
  • Brewer, Michael S
  • Winchell, Christopher J
  • Oxford, Geoff S
  • Gillespie, Rosemary G
  • et al.

Published Web Location

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/14/862
No data is associated with this publication.
Abstract

A number of spider species within the family Theridiidae exhibit a dramatic abdominal (opisthosomal) color polymorphism. The polymorphism is inherited in a broadly Mendelian fashion and in some species consists of dozens of discrete morphs that are convergent across taxa and populations. Few genomic resources exist for spiders. Here, as a first necessary step towards identifying the genetic basis for this trait we present the near complete transcriptomes of two species: the Hawaiian happy-face spider Theridion grallator and Theridion californicum. We mined the gene complement for pigment-pathway genes and examined differential expression (DE) between morphs that are unpatterned (plain yellow) and patterned (yellow with superimposed patches of red, white or very dark brown).

Results:

By deep sequencing both RNA-seq and normalized cDNA libraries from pooled specimens of each species we were able to assemble a comprehensive gene set for both species that we estimate to be 98-99% complete. It is likely that these species express more than 20,000 protein-coding genes, perhaps 4.5% (ca. 870) of which might be unique to spiders. Mining for pigment-associated Drosophila melanogaster genes indicated the presence of all ommochrome pathway genes and most pteridine pathway genes and DE analyses further indicate a possible role for the pteridine pathway in theridiid color patterning.

Conclusions:

Based upon our estimates, T. grallator and T. californicum express a large inventory of protein-coding genes. Our comprehensive assembly illustrates the continuing value of sequencing normalized cDNA libraries in addition to RNA-seq in order to generate a reference transcriptome for non-model species. The identification of pteridine-related genes and their possible involvement in color patterning is a novel finding in spiders and one that suggests a biochemical link between guanine deposits and the pigments exhibited by these species.

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