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J Exp Biol. 2011 Jan 1;214(Pt 1):59-68. doi: 10.1242/jeb.050328.

Foreign genes and novel hydrophilic protein genes participate in the desiccation response of the bdelloid rotifer Adineta ricciae.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QT, UK.


Bdelloid rotifers are aquatic micro-invertebrates with the ability to survive extreme desiccation, or anhydrobiosis, at any life stage. To gain insight into the molecular mechanisms used by bdelloids during anhydrobiosis, we constructed a cDNA library enriched for genes that are upregulated in Adineta ricciae 24 h after onset of dehydration. Resulting expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were analysed and sequences grouped into categories according to their probable identity. Of 75 unique sequences, approximately half (36) were similar to known genes from other species. These included genes encoding an unusual group 3 late embryogenesis abundant protein, and a number of other stress-related and DNA repair proteins. Open reading frames from a further 39 novel sequences, without counterparts in the database, were screened for the characteristics of intrinsically disordered proteins, i.e. hydrophilicity and lack of stable secondary structure. Such proteins have been implicated in desiccation tolerance and at least five were found. The majority of the genes identified was confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR to be capable of upregulation in response to evaporative water loss. Remarkably, further database and phylogenetic analysis highlighted four ESTs that are present in the A. ricciae genome but which represent genes probably arising from fungi or bacteria by horizontal gene transfer. Therefore, not only can bdelloid rotifers accumulate foreign genes and render them transcriptionally competent, but their expression pattern can be modified for participation in the desiccation stress response, and is presumably adaptive in this context.

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