De novo assembly of the dual transcriptomes of a polymorphic raptor species and its malarial parasite

Pauli, Martina; Chakarov, Nayden; Rupp, Oliver; Kalinowski, Jörn; Goesmann, Alexander; Sorenson, Michael D.; Krüger, Oliver; Hoffman, Joseph Ivan
December 2015
BMC Genomics;12/9/2015, Vol. 16, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Studies of non-model species are important for understanding the molecular processes underpinning phenotypic variation under natural ecological conditions. The common buzzard (Buteo buteo; Aves: Accipitriformes) is a widespread and common Eurasian raptor with three distinct plumage morphs that differ in several fitness-related traits, including parasite infestation. To provide a genomic resource for plumage polymorphic birds in general and to search for candidate genes relating to fitness, we generated a transcriptome from a single dead buzzard specimen plus easily accessible, minimally invasive samples from live chicks. Results: We not only de novo assembled a near-complete buzzard transcriptome, but also obtained a significant fraction of the transcriptome of its malaria-like parasite, Leucocytozoon buteonis. By identifying melanogenesis-related transcripts that are differentially expressed in light ventral and dark dorsal feathers, but which are also expressed in other regions of the body, we also identified a suite of candidate genes that could be associated with fitness differences among the morphs. These include several immune-related genes, providing a plausible link between melanisation and parasite load. qPCR analysis of a subset of these genes revealed significant differences between ventral and dorsal feathers and an additional effect of morph. Conclusion: This new resource provides preliminary insights into genes that could be involved in fitness differences between the buzzard colour morphs, and should facilitate future studies of raptors and their malaria-like parasites.


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