An Annotated Chromosome-Level Reference Genome of the Red-Eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans).
ABSTRACT: Among vertebrates, turtles have many unique characteristics providing biologists with opportunities to study novel evolutionary innovations and processes. We present here a high-quality, partially phased, and chromosome-level Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans, TSE) genome as a reference for future research on turtle and tetrapod evolution. This TSE assembly is 2.269?Gb in length, has one of the highest scaffold N50 and N90 values of any published turtle genome to date (N50?=?129.68?Mb and N90?=?19?Mb), and has a total of 28,415 annotated genes. We introduce synteny analyses using BUSCO single-copy orthologs, which reveal two chromosome fusion events accounting for differences in chromosome counts between emydids and other cryptodire turtles and reveal many fission/fusion events for birds, crocodiles, and snakes relative to TSE. This annotated chromosome-level genome will provide an important reference genome for future studies on turtle, vertebrate, and chromosome evolution.
Project description:The bony shell of the turtle is an evolutionary novelty not found in any other group of animals, however, research into its formation has suggested that it has evolved through modification of conserved developmental mechanisms. Although these mechanisms have been extensively characterized in model organisms, the tools for characterizing them in non-model organisms such as turtles have been limited by a lack of genomic resources. We have used a next generation sequencing approach to generate and assemble a transcriptome from stage 14 and 17 Trachemys scripta embryos, stages during which important events in shell development are known to take place. The transcriptome consists of 231,876 sequences with an N50 of 1,166 bp. GO terms and EC codes were assigned to the 61,643 unique predicted proteins identified in the transcriptome sequences. All major GO categories and metabolic pathways are represented in the transcriptome. Transcriptome sequences were used to amplify several cDNA fragments designed for use as RNA in situ probes. One of these, BMP5, was hybridized to a T. scripta embryo and exhibits both conserved and novel expression patterns. The transcriptome sequences should be of broad use for understanding the evolution and development of the turtle shell and for annotating any future T. scripta genome sequences.
Project description:When freshwater turtles acclimatize to winter hibernation, there is a gradual transition from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism, which may require adjustments of blood O2 transport before turtles become anoxic. Here, we report the effects of protons, anionic cofactors, and temperature on the O2-binding properties of isolated hemoglobin (Hb) isoforms, HbA and HbD, in the turtle Trachemys scripta. We determined the primary structures of the constituent subunits of the two Hb isoforms, and we related the measured functional properties to differences in O2 affinity between untreated hemolysates from turtles that were acclimated to normoxia and anoxia. Our data show that HbD has a consistently higher O2 affinity compared with HbA, whereas Bohr and temperature effects, as well as thiol reactivity, are similar. Although sequence data show amino acid substitutions at two known β-chain ATP-binding site positions, we find high ATP affinities for both Hb isoforms, suggesting an alternative and stronger binding site for ATP. The high ATP affinities indicate that, although ATP levels decrease in red blood cells of turtles acclimating to anoxia, the O2 affinity would remain largely unchanged, as confirmed by O2-binding measurements of untreated hemolysates from normoxic and anoxic turtles. Thus, the increase in blood-O2 affinity that accompanies winter acclimation is mainly attributable to a decrease in temperature rather than in concentrations of organic phosphates. This is the first extensive study on freshwater turtle Hb isoforms, providing molecular evidence for adaptive changes in O2 transport associated with acclimation to severe hypoxia.
Project description:Habitat degradation and species introductions are two of the leading causes of species declines on a global scale. Invasive species negatively impact native species through predation and competition for limited resources. The impacts of invasive species may be increased in habitats where habitat degradation is higher due to reductions of prey abundance and distribution. Using stable isotope analyses and extensive measurements of resource availability we determined how resource availability impacts the long term carbon and nitrogen assimilation of the invasive red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) and a native, threatened species, the red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys rubriventris) at two different freshwater wetland complexes in Pennsylvania, USA. At a larger wetland complex with greater vegetative species richness and diversity, our stable isotope analyses showed dietary niche partitioning between species, whereas analyses from a smaller wetland complex with lower vegetative species richness and diversity showed significant dietary niche overlap. Determining the potential for competition between these two turtle species is important to understanding the ecological impacts of red-eared slider turtles in wetland habitats. In smaller wetlands with increased potential for competition between native turtles and invasive red-eared slider turtles we expect that when shared resources become limited, red-eared slider turtles will negatively impact native turtle species leading to long term population declines. Protection of intact wetland complexes and the reduction of introduced species populations are paramount to preserving populations of native species.
Project description:During the early-life period, the hatchlings of red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) rely on their own post-hatching internal yolk for several days before beginning to feed. The gut microbiome is critical for the adaptation of organisms to new environments, but, to date, how the microbiome taxa are assembled during early life of the turtle is unknown. In this study, the intestinal microbiome of red-eared slider hatchlings (fed on commercial particle food) was systematically analyzed at four different growth stages (0 d, 10 d, 20 d, 30 d) by a high-throughput sequencing approach. Results showed that the dominant phyla were Firmicutes (58.23%) and Proteobacteria (41.42%) at 0-day, Firmicutes (92.94%) at 10-day, Firmicutes (67.08%) and Bacteroidetes (27.17%) at 20-day, and Firmicutes (56.46%), Bacteroidetes (22.55%) and Proteobacteria (20.66%) at 30-day post-hatching. Members of the Bacteroidaceae family were absent in 0-day and 10-day turtles, but dominated in 20-day and 30-day turtles. The abundance of Clostridium also showed the highest value in 10-day turtles. The richness of the intestinal microbiomes was lower at 0-day and 30-day than that at 10-day and 20-day, while the diversity was higher at 10-day and 30-day than that at 0-day and 20-day. The results endowed the turtles with an ability to enhance their tolerance to the environment.
Project description:Slider turtles are the only known amniotes with self-repair mechanisms of the spinal cord that lead to substantial functional recovery. Their strategic phylogenetic position makes them a relevant model to investigate the peculiar genetic programs that allow anatomical reconnection in some vertebrate groups but are absent in others. Here, we analyze the gene expression profile of the response to spinal cord injury (SCI) in the turtle Trachemys scripta elegans. We found that this response comprises more than 1000 genes affecting diverse functions: reaction to ischemic insult, extracellular matrix re-organization, cell proliferation and death, immune response, and inflammation. Genes related to synapses and cholesterol biosynthesis are down-regulated. The analysis of the evolutionary distribution of these genes shows that almost all are present in most vertebrates. Additionally, we failed to find genes that were exclusive of regenerating taxa. The comparison of expression patterns among species shows that the response to SCI in the turtle is more similar to that of mice and non-regenerative Xenopus than to Xenopus during its regenerative stage. This observation, along with the lack of conserved "regeneration genes" and the current accepted phylogenetic placement of turtles (sister group of crocodilians and birds), indicates that the ability of spinal cord self-repair of turtles does not represent the retention of an ancestral vertebrate character. Instead, our results suggest that turtles developed this capability from a non-regenerative ancestor (i.e., a lineage specific innovation) that was achieved by re-organizing gene expression patterns on an essentially non-regenerative genetic background. Among the genes activated by SCI exclusively in turtles, those related to anoxia tolerance, extracellular matrix remodeling, and axonal regrowth are good candidates to underlie functional recovery.
Project description:PURPOSE:Little is known about cryptosporidiosis in turtles of invasive alien species (IAS) inhabiting European bodies of fresh water. In this article, we report an occurrence of Cryptosporidium parvum in a red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) captured in a rural aquatic ecosystem in eastern Poland. METHODS:A pair of samples consisting of feces and scrapings of intestinal mucosa (taken during necropsy) were collected from 104 animals representing the four IAS turtle species red-eared slider, yellow-bellied slider, false map and Cumberland slider. The animals were trapped in running and standing freshwater ecosystems across the Lublin province. Parasite genomic DNA was extracted from samples using a modified alkali wash and a heat-lysis method and identification of the Cryptosporidium species was performed at the 18SSU rRNA and COWP loci. RESULTS:The presence of Cryptosporidium DNA was only detected in one sample of intestinal scraping collected from a red-eared slider. A phylogenetic analysis of a 18SSU rRNA gene fragment showed 100% sequence identity between the C. parvum strain isolated from the turtle and other C. parvum strains previously detected in cattle from the Lublin province. CONCLUSIONS:There was no clinical evidence that the red-eared slider turtle was truly infected rather than being merely a mechanical parasite carrier. Sporadic detection of this protozoan parasite in the studied population of IAS turtles could be associated with low natural occurrence of Cryptosporidium infections in this animal species. The results provide evidence for possible transmission of zoonotic Cryptosporidium species by IAS turtles.
Project description:Microbial communities associated with freshwater aquatic habitats and resident species are both critical to and indicative of ecosystem status and organismal health. External surfaces of turtle shells readily accumulate microbial growth and could carry representation of habitat-wide microbial diversity, since they are in regular contact with multiple elements of freshwater environments. Yet, microbial diversity residing on freshwater turtle shells is poorly understood. We applied 16S and 18S metabarcoding to characterize microbiota associated with external shell surfaces of 20 red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta) turtles collected from varied habitats in central and western Oklahoma, and ranging to southeast Iowa. Shell-associated microbial communities were highly diverse, with samples dominated by Bacteroidia and alpha-/gamma-proteobacteria, and ciliophoran alveolates. Alpha diversity was lower on turtle shells compared to shallow-water-associated environmental samples, likely resulting from basking-drying behavior and seasonal scute shedding, while alpha diversity was higher on carapace than plastron surfaces. Beta diversity of turtle shells was similarly differentiated from environmental samples, although sampling site was consistently a significant factor. Deinococcus-Thermus bacteria and ciliophoran alveolates were recovered with significantly higher abundance on turtle shells versus environmental samples, while bacterial taxa known to include human-pathogenic species were variably more abundant between shell and environmental samples. Microbial communities from a single, shared-site collection of the ecologically similar river cooter (P. concinna) largely overlapped with those of T. scripta. These data add to a foundation for further characterization of turtle shell microbial communities across species and habitats, with implications for freshwater habitat assessment, microbial ecology and wildlife conservation efforts.
Project description:Recent sequencing and software enhancements have advanced our understanding of the evolution of genomic structure and function, especially addressing novel evolutionary biology questions. Yet fragmentary turtle genome assemblies remain a challenge to fully decipher the genetic architecture of adaptive evolution. Here, we use optical mapping to improve the contiguity of the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) genome assembly and use de novo fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones, BAC-FISH, to physically map the genomes of the painted and slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans). Optical mapping increased C. picta's N50 by ~242% compared to the previous assembly. Physical mapping permitted anchoring ~45% of the genome assembly, spanning 5544 genes (including 20 genes related to the sex determination network of turtles and vertebrates). BAC-FISH data revealed assembly errors in C. picta and T. s. elegans assemblies, highlighting the importance of molecular cytogenetic data to complement bioinformatic approaches. We also compared C. picta's anchored scaffolds to the genomes of other chelonians, chicken, lizards, and snake. Results revealed a mostly one-to-one correspondence between chromosomes of painted and slider turtles, and high homology among large syntenic blocks shared with other turtles and sauropsids. Yet, numerous chromosomal rearrangements were also evident across chelonians, between turtles and squamates, and between avian and non-avian reptiles.
Project description:One of the most adaptive facultative anaerobes among vertebrates is the freshwater turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans. Upon a decrease in oxygen supply and oxidative phosphorylation, these turtles are able to reduce their metabolic rate and recruit anaerobic glycolysis to meet newly established ATP demands. Within the glycolytic pathway, aldolase enzymes cleave fructose-1,6-bisphosphate to triose phosphates facilitating an increase in anaerobic production of ATP. Importantly, this enzyme exists primarily as tissue-specific homotetramers of aldolase A, B or C located in skeletal muscle, liver and brain tissue, respectively. The present study characterizes aldolase activity and structure in the liver tissue of a turtle whose survival greatly depends on increased glycolytic output during anoxia. Immunoblot and mass spectrometry analysis verified the presence of both aldolase A and B in turtle liver tissue, and results from co-immunoprecipitation experiments suggested that in the turtle aldolase proteins may exist as an uncommon heterotetramer. Expression levels of aldolase A protein increased significantly in liver tissue to 1.59±0.11-fold after 20 h anoxia, when compared to normoxic control values (P<0.05). A similar increase was seen for aldolase B expression. The overall kinetic properties of aldolase, when using fructose-1,6-bisphosphate as substrate, were similar to that of a previously studied aldolase A and aldolase B heterotetramer, with a Km of 240 and 180 nM (for normoxic and anoxic turtle liver, respectively). Ligand docking of fructose-1,6-bisphosphate to the active site of aldolase A and B demonstrated minor differences in both protein:ligand interactions compared to rabbit models. It is likely that the turtle is unique in its ability to regulate a heterotetramer of aldolase A and B, with a higher overall enzymatic activity, to achieve greater rates of glycolytic output and support anoxia survival.
Project description:Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has a diverse functional role and complex pattern of gene expression. Alternative splicing of mRNA transcripts leads to further diversity of mRNAs and protein isoforms. Here, we describe the regulation of BDNF mRNA transcripts in an in vitro model of eyeblink classical conditioning and a unique transcript that forms a functionally distinct truncated BDNF protein isoform. Nine different mRNA transcripts from the BDNF gene of the pond turtle Trachemys scripta elegans (tBDNF) are selectively regulated during classical conditioning: exon I mRNA transcripts show no change, exon II transcripts are downregulated, while exon III transcripts are upregulated. One unique transcript that codes from exon II, tBDNF2a, contains a 40 base pair deletion in the protein coding exon that generates a truncated tBDNF protein. The truncated transcript and protein are expressed in the naïve untrained state and are fully repressed during conditioning when full-length mature tBDNF is expressed, thereby having an alternate pattern of expression in conditioning. Truncated BDNF is not restricted to turtles as a truncated mRNA splice variant has been described for the human BDNF gene. Further studies are required to determine the ubiquity of truncated BDNF alternative splice variants across species and the mechanisms of regulation and function of this newly recognized BDNF protein.