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Nat Commun. 2016 Sep 20;7:12808. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12808.

Extremotolerant tardigrade genome and improved radiotolerance of human cultured cells by tardigrade-unique protein.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.
2
Graduate School of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Kita 8, Nishi 5, Kita-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan.
3
Institute for Advanced Biosciences, Keio University, Mizukami 246-2, Kakuganji, Tsuruoka, Yamagata 997-0052, Japan.
4
Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8550, Japan.
5
Medical Proteomics Laboratory, Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo, 4-6-1 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8639, Japan.
6
Genome Biology Laboratory, National Institute of Genetics, 1111 Yata, Mishima, Shizuoka 411-8540, Japan.
7
Comparative Genomics Laboratory, National Institute of Genetics, 1111 Yata, Mishima, Shizuoka 411-8540, Japan.
8
Laboratory of Molecular Radiology, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.
9
Phyloinformatics Unit, RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, 2-2-3 Minatojima-minami, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0047, Japan.
10
Laboratory of Ecological Genetics, Graduate School of Environmental Science, Hokkaido University, Kita 10, Nishi 5, Kita-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan.
11
The Hakubi Center for Advanced Research and Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-oiwake-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.
12
Laboratory of Extremophiles, Department of Applied Life Sciences, School of Life Sciences, Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, 1432-1 Horinouchi, Hachioji, Tokyo 192-0392, Japan.
13
Department of Computational Biology and Medical Science, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8562, Japan.
14
Department of Genetics, SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), 1111 Yata, Mishima, Shizuoka 411-8540, Japan.
15
Database Center for Life Science, 178-4-4 Wakashiba, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-0871, Japan.

Abstract

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are small aquatic animals. Some tardigrade species tolerate almost complete dehydration and exhibit extraordinary tolerance to various physical extremes in the dehydrated state. Here we determine a high-quality genome sequence of Ramazzottius varieornatus, one of the most stress-tolerant tardigrade species. Precise gene repertoire analyses reveal the presence of a small proportion (1.2% or less) of putative foreign genes, loss of gene pathways that promote stress damage, expansion of gene families related to ameliorating damage, and evolution and high expression of novel tardigrade-unique proteins. Minor changes in the gene expression profiles during dehydration and rehydration suggest constitutive expression of tolerance-related genes. Using human cultured cells, we demonstrate that a tardigrade-unique DNA-associating protein suppresses X-ray-induced DNA damage by ∼40% and improves radiotolerance. These findings indicate the relevance of tardigrade-unique proteins to tolerability and tardigrades could be a bountiful source of new protection genes and mechanisms.

Conflict of interest statement

T. Kunieda and T.H. declare competing financial interests, as a part of the work described in this publication has been applied for a patent (Japanese patent application number 2015-032209). All other authors declare no competing financial interests.

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