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Toxins 2018, 10(7), 292; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins10070292

Studying Smaller and Neglected Organisms in Modern Evolutionary Venomics Implementing RNASeq (Transcriptomics)—A Critical Guide

1
Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Institute for Insect Biotechnology, Heinrich Buff Ring 58, 35392 Giessen, Germany
2
Natural History Museum, Department of Life Sciences, Cromwell Rd, London SW75BD, UK
Received: 25 June 2018 / Revised: 6 July 2018 / Accepted: 13 July 2018 / Published: 16 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Venoms)
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Abstract

Venoms are evolutionary key adaptations that species employ for defense, predation or competition. However, the processes and forces that drive the evolution of venoms and their toxin components remain in many aspects understudied. In particular, the venoms of many smaller, neglected (mostly invertebrate) organisms are not characterized in detail, especially with modern methods. For the majority of these taxa, even their biology is only vaguely known. Modern evolutionary venomics addresses the question of how venoms evolve by applying a plethora of -omics methods. These recently became so sensitive and enhanced that smaller, neglected organisms are now more easily accessible to comparatively study their venoms. More knowledge about these taxa is essential to better understand venom evolution in general. The methodological core pillars of integrative evolutionary venomics are genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, which are complemented by functional morphology and the field of protein synthesis and activity tests. This manuscript focuses on transcriptomics (or RNASeq) as one toolbox to describe venom evolution in smaller, neglected taxa. It provides a hands-on guide that discusses a generalized RNASeq workflow, which can be adapted, accordingly, to respective projects. For neglected and small taxa, generalized recommendations are difficult to give and conclusions need to be made individually from case to case. In the context of evolutionary venomics, this overview highlights critical points, but also promises of RNASeq analyses. Methodologically, these concern the impact of read processing, possible improvements by perfoming multiple and merged assemblies, and adequate quantification of expressed transcripts. Readers are guided to reappraise their hypotheses on venom evolution in smaller organisms and how robustly these are testable with the current transcriptomics toolbox. The complementary approach that combines particular proteomics but also genomics with transcriptomics is discussed as well. As recently shown, comparative proteomics is, for example, most important in preventing false positive identifications of possible toxin transcripts. Finally, future directions in transcriptomics, such as applying 3rd generation sequencing strategies to overcome difficulties by short read assemblies, are briefly addressed. View Full-Text
Keywords: evolutionary venomics; transcriptomics; proteomics; pooled samples; assembly; read mapping; toxin expression level evolutionary venomics; transcriptomics; proteomics; pooled samples; assembly; read mapping; toxin expression level
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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von Reumont, B.M. Studying Smaller and Neglected Organisms in Modern Evolutionary Venomics Implementing RNASeq (Transcriptomics)—A Critical Guide. Toxins 2018, 10, 292.

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