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Variation and evolution of toxin gene expression patterns of six closely related venomous marine snails

Authors

  • T. F. DUDA JR,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor MI 48109, USA,
    2. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancón, Republic of Panama
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  • E. A. REMIGIO

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor MI 48109, USA,
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T. F. Duda Jr, Fax: + 734-763-4080; E-mail: tfduda@umich.edu

Abstract

Venoms of predatory marine gastropods of the genus Conus show amazing levels of interspecific diversity and are comprised of a cocktail of peptide neurotoxins, termed conotoxins, that are encoded by large gene families. Conotoxin gene family evolution is characterized by gene duplications and high rates of nonsynonymous substitution among paralogues; yet, what controls the differentiation of venoms among species is not clear. We compared four-loop conotoxin transcripts of six closely related Conus species to examine conotoxin expression patterns among species. The species examined appear to express different numbers of four-loop conotoxin loci and similarity in expression patterns does not seem to correspond with phylogenetic affinity. Moreover, several loci appear to have been independently silenced while others appear to have been revived from previously silenced states. Some loci also appear to exhibit coordinated expression patterns. These results suggest that the evolution of conotoxin expression patterns is incredibly dynamic and the differentiation of venoms of Conus is controlled in part by the evolution of unique conotoxin expression patterns.

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