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Mol Ecol. 2017 Jul;26(14):3732-3743. doi: 10.1111/mec.14149. Epub 2017 May 18.

Molecular adaptation in the world's deepest-living animal: Insights from transcriptome sequencing of the hadal amphipod Hirondellea gigas.

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Division of Life Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Department of Biology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China.
Institute of Deep Sea Science and Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Sanya, Hainan, China.


The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the deepest point in the oceans of our planet. Understanding how animals adapt to this harsh environment characterized by high hydrostatic pressure, food limitation, dark and cold is of great scientific interest. Of the animals dwelling in the Challenger Deep, amphipods have been captured using baited traps. In this study, we sequenced the transcriptome of the amphipod Hirondellea gigas collected at a depth of 10,929 m from the East Pond of the Challenger Deep. Assembly of these sequences resulted in 133,041 contigs and 22,046 translated proteins. Functional annotation of these contigs was made using the go and kegg databases. Comparison of these translated proteins with those of four shallow-water amphipods revealed 10,731 gene families, of which 5659 were single-copy orthologs. Base substitution analysis on these single-copy orthologs showed that 62 genes are positively selected in H. gigas, including genes related to β-alanine biosynthesis, energy metabolism and genetic information processing. For multiple-copy orthologous genes, gene family expansion analysis revealed that cold-inducible proteins (i.e., transcription factors II A and transcription elongation factor 1) as well as zinc finger domains are expanded in H. gigas. Overall, our results indicate that genetic adaptation to the hadal environment by H. gigas may be mediated by both gene family expansion and amino acid substitutions of specific proteins.


Challenger Deep; Mariana Trench; deep sea; hydrostatic pressure; positive selection

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