Next-generation approaches to advancing eco-immunogenomic research in critically endangered primates

Authors


Abstract

High-throughput sequencing platforms are generating massive amounts of genomic data from nonmodel species, and these data sets are valuable resources that can be mined to advance a number of research areas. An example is the growing amount of transcriptome data that allow for examination of gene expression in nonmodel species. Here, we show how publicly available transcriptome data from nonmodel primates can be used to design novel research focused on immunogenomics. We mined transcriptome data from the world's most endangered group of primates, the lemurs of Madagascar, for sequences corresponding to immunoglobulins. Our results confirmed homology between strepsirrhine and haplorrhine primate immunoglobulins and allowed for high-throughput sequencing of expressed antibodies (Ig-seq) in Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli). Using both Pacific Biosciences RS and Ion Torrent PGM sequencing, we performed Ig-seq on two individuals of Coquerel's sifaka. We generated over 150 000 sequences of expressed antibodies, allowing for molecular characterization of the antigen-binding region. Our analyses suggest that similar VDJ expression patterns exist across all primates, with sequences closely related to the human VH3 immunoglobulin family being heavily represented in sifaka antibodies. Moreover, the antigen-binding region of sifaka antibodies exhibited similar amino acid variation with respect to haplorrhine primates. Our study represents the first attempt to characterize sequence diversity of the expressed antibody repertoire in a species of lemur. We anticipate that methods similar to ours will provide the framework for investigating the adaptive immune response in wild populations of other nonmodel organisms and can be used to advance the burgeoning field of eco-immunology.

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