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Jackson, Daniel J.; Reim, Laurin; Randow, Clemens; Cerveau, Nicolas; Degnan, Bernard M.; Fleck, Claudia (2017): Variation in Orthologous Shell-Forming Proteins Contribute to Molluscan Shell Diversity. In: Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 34, No. 11: pp. 2959-2969
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Abstract

Despite the evolutionary success and ancient heritage of the molluscan shell, little is known about the molecular details of its formation, evolutionary origins, or the interactions between the material properties of the shell and its organic constituents. In contrast to this dearth of information, a growing collection of molluscan shell-forming proteomes and transcriptomes suggest they are comprised of both deeply conserved, and lineage specific elements. Analyses of these sequence data sets have suggested that mechanisms such as exon shuffling, gene co-option, and gene family expansion facilitated the rapid evolution of shell-forming proteomes and supported the diversification of this phylum specific structure. In order to further investigate and test these ideas we have examined the molecular features and spatial expression patterns of two shell-forming genes (Lustrin and ML1A2) and coupled these observations with materials properties measurements of shells from a group of closely related gastropods (abalone). We find that the prominent "GS" domain of Lustrin, a domain believed to confer elastomeric properties to the shell, varies significantly in length between the species we investigated. Furthermore, the spatial expression patterns of Lustrin and ML1A2 also vary significantly between species, suggesting that both protein architecture, and the regulation of spatial gene expression patterns, are important drivers of molluscan shell evolution. Variation in these molecular features might relate to certain materials properties of the shells of these species. These insights reveal an important and underappreciated source of variation within shell-forming proteomes that must contribute to the diversity of molluscan shell phenotypes.